06/06/2001 11:00PM

Classy Resort in Monmouth Beach


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The $50,000 stakes at this meet have been drawing solid fields. Saturday's feature, the Monmouth Beach Stakes for fillies and mares at one mile and seventy yards, is no exception.

Shug McGaughey shipper Resort is the class of the field, having showed her mettle against the toughest 3-year-old fillies last year. Resort, owned and bred by Ogden Phipps, ran her best races in the Grade 1 Coaching Club Oaks and the Grade 1 Gazelle Handicap. In the CCA Oaks at Belmont, she was second to Jostle; two races later, she finished third to Critical Eye in the Gazelle. She won three of her 10 starts last year, all in allowance races. Resort's last race was a fifth-place finish in a money allowance at Belmont May 18. However, the Monmouth Beach will be an easier spot for Resort to return to her winning ways.

"She ran terrible in her last race," McGaughey said. "I have no idea why. She came out of the race just fine and she's been training very well since then.

"If she runs a decent race Saturday, like I know she can, I'll be happy," he said.

Joe Bravo will be aboard Resort for the first time, carrying a light 113 pounds.

The local standout is Wittenberg, a 5-year-old mare trained by Vicki Oliver. Wittenberg's three lifetime wins have come at Monmouth - a maiden and allowance win two years ago, and an allowance score last year. After her easy allowance victory last year, she ran sixth in the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap at 46-1 odds.

Wittenberg, who will be ridden by Dale Beckner, tried the turf for the first time in her only 2001 start April 19 at Keeneland. She ran fourth in the condition allowance, showing turf promise.

"I'm looking for a good race from her," Oliver said. "We know she loves the track here."

Can Eleven North keep Open Mind?

The undercard stakes Saturday, the $50,000 Open Mind Handicap at six furlongs for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares, features a mare who has been amazingly durable and consistent. The race has been won the last three times by the 7-year-old Eleven North, trained by Kevin Sleeter.

Eleven North was fifth here on May 28 in a $50,000 allowance, a five-furlong sprint, after breaking badly. That race was versus open company, and was switched from the grass to the main track.

"She just has to get a normal start," said her owner, Gerald Sleeter, Kevin's father. "She reared as soon as the gate opened last time, and never was in the race. She came out fine and has been working well since."

Gerosa returns in allowance

Undefeated last year as a 3-year-old, Gerosa is set to return to the races in an allowance Sunday after an extended layoff because of a leg injury. The colt, trained by John Forbes, was unraced as a 2-year-old, and won his two career starts here last year. The colt has carried high expectations for two years. Gerosa worked out Wednesday, breezing four furlongs in 50.40 seconds. He has been sidelined since Aug. 27.

"He's been coming back well," Forbes said. "We hope to run him a here few times this meet. We've always thought of him as a pretty good racehorse."