05/25/2001 11:00PM

Inkatha becomes Red Bank fixture


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Of the 15 horses entered in Monday's Grade 3 $150,000 Red Bank Handicap at Monmouth Park, Inkatha holds the edge in experience.

Inkatha, a 7-year-old horse owned by Gene Smith and trained by Bobby Barnett, has raced in the last three runnings of the Red Bank.

He won the 1999 running by a nose over Rob n' Gin, and finished a late-running third last year to Mi Narrow. Now, Inkatha will attempt to join Adam Smith as the only two-time winners of the mile turf race.

"He loves to train and always runs well," said Barnett. "The mile is a perfect distance for him. The race should set up well for him."

Inkatha, who will be ridden by Jose Velez Jr. at 112 pounds, has yet to win in five races this year, but he has been competitive against high quality competition. Two races back Inkatha finished seventh, beaten only 2 3/4 lengths, in the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland, and, in his most recent effort, he was third in a money allowance on opening week at Churchill.

Inkatha was trained by Bill Mott for his 1999 Red Bank victory, but was transferred to Barnett's stable at Fair Grounds in the beginning of 2000.

Standing in the way of Inkatha's attempt at a Red Bank double is Inexplicable, who is trained by Ben Perkins Jr.

A 5-year-old son of Miswaki, Inkatha won a Grade 3 race at Gulfstream Park, the Canadian Turf Handicap, last winter while being trained by Christophe Clement. In his only race since being transferred to Perkins, he finished second in the $75,000 Henry S. Clark at Pimlico on April 29. Rick Wilson will ride.

Bill Mott, who recorded five turf stakes wins here last summer, sends out the entry of Western Summer and In Frank's Honor.

Weather will play an important role in this race. Saturday's turf races were moved to the main track, and the same could be done Monday if inclement weather continues. If the race is taken off the turf, expect a number of scratches.

Affirmed Success, trained by Richard Schosberg, is entered for dirt only. He was also entered in Sunday's Jaipur at Belmont. Rize, winner of last year's Grade 2 Iselin Handicap, is also entered for dirt only.

o Eleven North, a 7-year-old mare trained by Kevin Sleeter, makes her seasonal debut in Monday's undercard stakes, the $50,000 West Long Branch Stakes, at six furlongs for fillies and mares. Eleven North is fond of the Monmouth racing surface, having won the Fair Haven Stakes, now the Open Mind Handicap, the past three years.