06/20/2001 11:00PM

Evangeline Downs: Oak Hall sprints


LAFAYETTE, La. - Oak Hall, a versatile 5-year-old Louisiana-bred gelding owned by Ens Ortego, turns back to one turn as he heads a field of seven in the Evangeline Downs Sprint Championship. The six-furlong dash carries a $30,000 purse.

Oak Hall has won twice this season, a two-turn allowance affair on the grass at Fair Grounds, and his most recent start, a popular front-running score in the 1 1/16-mile John Henry Handicap at Evangeline on May 5.

A son of Olympio, Oak Hall is certainly no stranger to six furlongs, however, as he pulled off an upset victory in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions' Day Sprint last December.

In winning the John Henry, regular rider James Avant placed Oak Hall with the early pace before shaking free entering the stretch and eventually drawing clear by over four lengths. Trainer Doyle Wardrop, in anticipation of a livelier pace scenario on Saturday, put a quick 35.80-second, three-furlong work into Oak Hall on June 16. Avant will once again handle the riding chores on Oak Hall starting highweight at 120 pounds.

Rated just behind Oak Hall in the weights at 119 pounds are a couple of consistent performers, Itsacryingshame and Early Goer.

Itsacryingshame enters the Sprint Championship off two sharp allowance efforts. The James Brown-trained charge followed up a near miss April 20 with a furious late-running victory May 23, in which he covered 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.80. Coby Bourque has the return call.

Lone Star invader Early Goer is in solid form. After finishing third behind Itsacryingshame in the aforementioned allowance race at Evangeline on April 20, he traveled to Texas and defeated a group of nonwinners-of-three-other-than rivals in impressive fashion. He finished third in his most recent out. Bradley Cathey will give Jamie Teriot a leg up.