12/12/2002 1:00AM

Walk in the Snow at top of his game


Walk in the Snow and Oak Hall meet on Saturday in round two of a blossoming Louisiana rivalry. Oak Hall is twice Walk in the Snow's age, but in their first meeting last month at Delta Downs, the 3-year-old Walk in the Snow was the better horse, beating Oak Hall by more than three lengths.

"We've got some ground to make up," said Keith Bourgeois, Oak Hall's trainer.

Fittingly, their race is the $150,000 Classic, which tops off Louisiana Champions Day, a 10-stakes program for Louisiana-breds. Seven of the races are for Thoroughbreds and three are for Quarter Horses. Though the statebred restriction limits the depth of quality in some races, full and competitive fields make Champions Day attractive from a bettor's point of view.

The Classic basically boils down to a match race. Oak Hall is the defending champion, but he might not have beaten a horse of Walk in the Snow's quality last year.

Walk in the Snow ran second here last year in the Champions Day Juvenile, but those were his sprinting days. Once back from arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone chip, Walk in the Snow was refashioned as a route horse this summer, and the race that stamped his quality was actually a loss. In the Grade 2 Super Derby, Walk in the Snow finished second, beaten by Essence of Dubai.

"I was walking down to the winner's circle," said trainer Herman Taylor, whose wife, Ginger, is listed as Walk in the Snow's owner. "It felt like we won."

Walk in the Snow, Taylor said, has continued moving forward since his Delta win over older horses.

"I wish the race was today," Taylor said on Wednesday. "He's ready to go."

Meanwhile, Bourgeois holds out hope that a change of venue will help Oak Hall.

"He was running the other day," said Bourgeois of Oak Hall's last race, "but the jockey said he didn't like the track at Delta. He likes the Fair Grounds surface. We're hoping the racetrack makes all the difference."

But, Bourgeois acknowledged, Oak Hall is an aging horse who already has shown his best hand.

"You know, Walk in the Snow is still a younger horse, and he's getting good right now," he said.

Kirk Leblanc will ride Walk in the Snow. Kerwin Clark will ride Oak Hall, who drew post 1, directly inside Walk in the Snow. The pair's presence has scared away most of the competition, and a win by any of the other four entrants - Pancho Pete, One Brick Shy, Samlot, or Prince Slew - would qualify as a major upset.


LA. Champions Day Classic

Purse: $150,000, 1 1/8 Miles

1Oak HallK. D. Clark1202-1
2Walk In The SnowK. P. Leblanc 1206-5
3Pancho PeteE. M. J. Martin11320-1
4One Brick ShyG. Melancon1137-2
5SamlotR. Ardoin11320-1
6Prince SlewR. J. Albarado1138-1

Odds by Kristin Sadler

for Fair Grounds entries.

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