07/14/2009 12:00AM

Cole Norman working on Michael Gill's farm


Cole Norman has been hired as an assistant farm trainer by Michael Gill, the leading owner by wins in North America. The position is Norman's first in racing since February 2007, when he was involved in a car accident that left an 86-year-old woman dead. Once one of the winningest trainers in North America, he served nine months in an Arkansas state prison for negligent homicide and was released on Jan. 28, 2009.

Norman is working at Gill's Elk Creek Ranch Training Center in Oxford, Pa., under Anthony Adamo, Gill's head trainer and racing manager. Norman said he is currently unable to be licensed in the state because of his recent felony conviction, but he can assist at the farm because it is Gill's private property. When Norman might be eligible to be relicensed as a trainer varies from state to state, with some jurisdictions calling for completion of his parole period, which is up in September 2011.

"I'm pumped about the job," Norman said Tuesday. "It's a good job. It's a team effort, and I just like being part of the team."

Adamo said he was looking for quality staff on the farm, where he has about 120 horses in his care, when he came across Norman's training record while doing an online search. Adamo said he was impressed that Norman, who is 40, had won 16 titles in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. Adamo said he contacted Norman and was able to bring him on at Elk Creek.

"I think we got lucky because of circumstances," said Adamo. "I'm not happy what happened with him by any means. As a manager, you go out and get the best guy you can get for the money. I hope I hit a grand slam."

Adamo is one of several trainers under Gill's employ, with others based at East Coast tracks. Gill won the Eclipse Award as champion owner in 2005 but reduced his holdings soon afterward. In the past year he has been active claiming horses and through Monday led all owners in the nation with 202 wins. He is second in North America in stable earnings, with $3,647,490.

Norman was found to have painkillers, for which he had prescriptions, in his system following the Hot Springs, Ark., automobile accident, which killed Virginia Heath. He was sentenced to six years in prison, but was released early in part because he completed a substance abuse program and Heath's family did not oppose his parole. He began working for Gill three weeks ago.

"When I started training horses, I said I would ride the roller coaster until someone turned it off," Norman said. "And you know, what turned it off were my actions. To be able to get back on, I'm like a kid in a fair."

Norman won 1,885 races and his horses earned more than $30 million in purses during his 12 years as a trainer. He won six training titles at Oaklawn Park, nine at Louisiana Downs, and one at Lone Star Park.

Norman said his wife and children were relocating to Pennsylvania this week from the couple's home in Haughton, La.