12/04/2003 1:00AM

Chinkapin still moving up in class


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Three starts after being claimed for $50,000 at Del Mar, Chinkapin will attempt to win his second stakes for his new owners and trainer in Saturday's $150,000 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park.

So far, Chinkapin, a 7-year-old gelding, is a bargain purchase.

After winning a $50,000 claimer in his first start for a partnership and trainer Mike Mitchell, Chinkapin returned to win the Pomona Invitational Handicap at Fairplex Park on Sept. 28, then ran a game second in the Seabiscuit Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, an hour after the last Breeders' Cup race.

The Seabiscuit had a strong field, and the Native Diver cast of eight is also competitive.

Olmodavor, the runner-up in the Strub Stakes and New Orleans Handicap last winter, might be the favorite, but must beat Total Impact, who has not started since winning the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap here in May.

Other win candidates include the gritty Legendary Weave, who has never been worse than second in six starts at Hollywood Park; the promising 3-year-old Buckland Manor; and Nose the Trade, who was third in this race last year.

Chinkapin shares highweight of 118 pounds with Total Impact.

Earlier this week, Mitchell raved about Chinkapin's condition. He said he believes Chinkapin was a steal when claimed from trainer Jerry Hollendorfer after a runner-up finish at Del Mar on July 27.

"He was in great shape when I got him," Mitchell said. "He seems like a pretty classy horse.

It's likely that Chinkapin and Total Impact will stalk a pace set by Gift of the Eagle and closely attended by Legendary Wave and Tenaja Trail. Olmodavor, fifth in an allowance race for sprinters at Santa Anita on Oct. 26, is a closer and will need a quick pace.

Chinkapin comes out of a Seabiscuit that has already proven to be productive.

The Seabiscuit's third-place finisher, Redattore, returned to win the $400,000 Citation Handicap last Saturday at Hollywood Park. On the same day, Fleetstreet Dancer - who ran sixth in the Seabiscuit - pulled an upset in the $2 million Japan Cup Dirt at Tokyo Racecourse.

Mitchell and partners are hoping that one more Seabiscuit Handicap alumni wins this weekend.