02/02/2006 12:00AM

Change in venue for Mile should benefit Drill Hall


There is something different about the Delta Mile this year.

First and foremost, Saturday's $50,000 race for older horses is not being held at Delta Downs at all. Because of damage from Hurricane Rita, Delta's dates this winter have been moved to Evangeline Downs.

The complexion of the race itself is likely to differ as well since Evangeline's oval measures a mile compared with the six-furlong track at Delta.

This year's edition of the Mile is also deeper than in recent seasons, thanks in part to another hurricane, Katrina. That storm forced Fair Grounds to move its meeting to Louisiana Downs and conduct a much shorter 37-day stand. That meet is now over, which means Evangeline currently holds a monopoly on racing in Louisiana.

One thing that is familiar about this year's Mile is High Strike Zone, who won the race a year ago. He will be coupled in the wagering with fellow Amos Laborde trainee Governor of Spain. The duo finished in a near dead heat in the $75,000 Lucky Dog Stakes at Evangeline on Jan. 7 with Governor of Spain gaining the head bob for the place spot, a half-length behind Drill Hall, who is also entered on Saturday night. Ricky Faul will again be aboard High Strike Zone while Billy Patin takes the return call on Governor of Spain.

is the epitome of a horse for the course. He is now 6 for 7 locally. In the only race he didn't win, Drill Hall finished second in last year's $100,000 Evangeline Mile. Overall, the 7-year-old Drill Hall has won 12 of 29 starts and is not showing any signs of slowing down. Regular rider Steve Bourse will once again handle the riding chores for trainer Keith Bourgeois.

- who along with Mr. Barracuda form the second stable coupling in the race - will make his two-turn debut. An undefeated terror in the region as a 2- and 3-year-old, Watchem Smokey was sold privately and came under the care of Bobby Frankel in the summer of 2003. He has since changed hands a couple of times, including through the claim box for $100,000 at Keeneland last April. He will be making his first start for trainer Brandon Marks. Kerwin Clark will be in the saddle.