04/21/2003 11:00PM

Oak Hall strong following throat surgery


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - There are reasons to believe Oak Hall will run back to the 111 Beyer Speed Figure he earned two starts ago in Saturday's Texas Mile. Ten runners are expected for the Grade 3, $300,000 race.

Oak Hall has undergone minor throat surgery since he was beaten a head as the 3-5 favorite in the $150,000 Gulf Coast Handicap at Delta Downs March 2. The procedure could mean another big effort is in the making.

Oak Hall earned his career-best Beyer Feb. 1, when he won the $75,000 Bayou State at Delta. The win made him an odds-on favorite for the Gulf Coast, but before that race was over his trainer, Keith Bourgeois, knew something was bothering the late-running Oak Hall.

"He was making his move like in the [Bayou State], then kind of hung with them," Bourgeois said.

After the race, Oak Hall's regular rider Kirk LeBlanc gave Bourgeois feedback that confirmed the trainer's concern. "Kirk said he was making a noise when he was coming back," Bourgeois said. "He said he had never made that noise before.

"We scoped him after the race and found he had an entrapped epiglottis. It obstructed his breathing. Most horses wouldn't run a half-mile with what he had."

Oak Hall underwent laser surgery, and has since worked well for the Texas Mile.

"He worked in 58.40 [five furlongs, April 11], and that was probably the best work he's ever had since he's been with me," said Bourgeois, the nation's eighth-leading trainer by wins, who has trained Oak Hall since August 2002.

In addition to the big workout, Oak Hall comes into the Texas Mile on six weeks' rest, and his biggest races have come with that amount of time between starts. He earned his 111 Beyer following a six-week break.

Aiding Oak Hall's cause is an expected honest pace in the Texas Mile.

"I think we'll have a fast pace in the race," Bourgeois said. "You've got horses to go out on the lead like Bonapaw and Wiseman's Ferry, and that gives us a big shot."

Oak Hall, who races for owner Ena Ortego, will van in from Evangeline Downs Thursday. In his career, he has won 17 races and earned $613,792.

Slider might try LS 'Cap

Slider, who finished second to Medaglia d'Oro in the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap, had been under consideration for the Texas Mile, but will pass the race, said trainer Joe Woodard.

Instead, he could run later in the meet in the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap May 26.

"All those kinds of races, we're going to look at," said Woodard, who is based in Kentucky. "We would like to come down there and run in some stakes and check things out because Lone Star Park may be in my future."

Woodard brought a string of horses to this region over the winter when he stabled at Oaklawn for the first time. A number of Oaklawn trainers race at Lone Star, and Woodard's horses fit well in Hot Springs, where he won with 30 percent of his starters.

* Making a case for Classic Case in Thursday's featured ninth race is not difficult. Classic Case has been working strongly for the two-other-than allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on turf, which drew a field of seven, including Group 3 winner Golani.

Classic Case drilled five furlongs in 59 seconds in his final prep for Thursday, which will be his first start since Jan. 13. The last time he returned from a similar layoff he won the $50,000 Budweiser Challenger at Tampa Bay Downs.