09/29/2009 11:00PM

Cart closing in on first training title

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BOSSIER CITY, La. - Sunday is closing day at Louisiana Downs, and it will officially mark the end of an era. For the first time since the 1997 season, neither Cole Norman nor former Norman assistant Jorge Lara will be crowned training champ.

Norman saw his nine-year domination atop the standings that began in 1998 come to an end following his conviction in 2007 of negligent homicide in a traffic accident in February of that year. Lara inherited many of Norman's owners and won the trainer's title in 2007 and 2008 before running out of momentum this season.

The race for this year's crown had been a spirited one, coming down to Jerry Cart, Pat Mouton, and Morris Nicks during the dog days of summer. Cart continued a steady string of wins and holds the upper hand heading into the final week of the season, with 34 victories to Nicks's 29 and Mouton's 28. Cart also has attempted to pad his position by entering four horses on Friday's program, compared to two each for Nicks and Mouton. Should Cart hang on to his lead, it would be the first Louisiana Downs title for the veteran trainer.

One of Cart's entrants, Zava Jack, will likely vie for favoritism in the afternoon's fourth race, a third-level optional claimer. The six-furlong affair on the main track drew a solid field of eight.

Zava Jack will be making his first start since an unplaced effort in the $100,000 Prelude stakes on Aug. 14. The 3-year-old son of Zavata has won two of his nine starts and finished second four times. Jeff Burningham will handle the riding chores.

Also in Friday's headliner is Foreign Production. The Louisiana-bred sophomore trained by James Hodges defeated open company last November in the Old Hickory Stakes at Fair Grounds and also won the Louisiana Stallion Stakes here last October. The Run Production colt has been out twice this meeting at Louisiana Downs, winning an open allowance in late July and most recently finishing second in the Louisiana Cup Sprint in his first start against older company. Carlos Gonzalez, aboard for Foreign Production's last two starts, has the return call.

Ranger Danger, a lightly raced 3-year-old gelding, will be making his local debut and first start since wining a second allowance at Lone Star in late April. He earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort in winning for the third time in just four starts. Richard Eramia has the call.