10/26/2007 12:00AM

Expect more speed from Marq French

EmailMarq French is back to defend his title Sunday in the $50,000 Osage Hills at Remington Park, and his trainer, Donnie Von Hemel, expects him to race closer to the pace than in his most recent start. The horse is one of seven in the Osage Hills, a five-furlong turf sprint restricted to Oklahoma-breds.

Marq French was a front-running winner of this race a year ago. He comes into this year's running off a closing second in the Oklahoma Classics Day Sprint on Sept. 29.

"He wasn't as close as he usually is that day," said Von Hemel, noting that Marq French did not break as sharply as usual. "He's usually up close."

Earlier in the meet, Marq French used front-running tactics to win the $50,000 Silver Goblin for Oklahoma-breds.

The chief threat could be Garbu Road. He won the Classics Day Sprint with a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 93. It was the second straight win for the horse.

In the first race, a starter handicap at 1 3/8 miles, Red Rock Creek will attempt to improve his Remington turf record to 8 for 9. In his lone loss over the local course, he finished second by a half-length to Ascertain in the $100,000 Remington Green.

Oklahoma: Preliminary dates for 2008

Remington's meet for Thoroughbreds will likely start and end about two weeks later than this year's after race-date requests for 2008 received preliminary approvals during an Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission meeting on Thursday. The dates are expected to be formally set next month, said Tino Rieger, executive director of the commission.

Remington received preliminary approval for a 67-date meet for Thoroughbreds, from Aug. 21 to Dec. 14. The track's Quarter Horse meet is expected to run 50 days, from March 7 through June 1.

Fair Meadows in Tulsa received preliminary approval for 34 dates of mixed racing, from May 20 to July 26. Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw is expected to conduct a 67-date mixed meet from Aug. 1 to Nov. 30.

Will Rogers Downs near Claremore originally asked for a 44-date mixed meet from Feb. 16 through May 26, but told commissioners it is the track's intent to amend the request to start about a week later.

Louisiana Downs: Handle dips

Louisiana Downs reported a 3 percent decline in average daily handle during its 91-date Thoroughbred meet that closed Oct. 20. The track handled $2 million a day on its races from all sources this meet, down from $2.06 million during its corresponding 93-date meet in 2006.

Attendance figures are not available because admission to the track, which operates a 1,400-machine slots casino, is free. Louisiana Downs is owned by casino giant Harrah's Entertainment, which is being purchased by Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group. The closing is scheduled for December.

Jorge Lara won his first career training title with 56 wins, 22 more than second-leading trainer Patrick Mouton. John Jacinto was the meet's leading rider with 109 wins. The leading owner was Jan Haynes. The horse of the meet was Tortuga Flats.

Arkansas: Norman trial reset for February

A trial date for trainer Cole Norman, who in June pleaded not guilty to a manslaughter charge stemming from automobile accident in Hot Springs, Ark., has been reset for Feb. 14, 2008.

The trial was scheduled to start on Oct. 24, but Norman filed for a continuance, according to officials with the Garland County Circuit Court. The case concerns a Feb. 5 head-on collision between Norman, 38, and Virginia Heath, an 86-year-old woman who later died. The accident happened on Highway 7 South.

Last month, Norman finished serving a six-month suspension for a medication infraction incurred by one of his starters in Louisiana. A longtime leading trainer in Arkansas and Louisiana, he has not raced a horse since Feb. 11.