01/19/2006 12:00AM

Fractured neck can't stop Cole Norman

Beau's Town, a star in the Norman barn, might runs next in the Essex.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - If you thought something like a fractured neck might slow down trainer Cole Norman, then you don't know Cole Norman. For the past several weeks the high-energy horseman has been back training following a serious all-terrain vehicle accident on Dec. 19.

Norman underwent a three-hour surgery to place a plate and four screws in his fractured neck, and he must wear a brace for the next three months. He will not be physically able to saddle a horse for 90 days, but that will not keep him from pursuing his sixth straight top-trainer title at Oaklawn Park, which opened on Friday.

"I don't see this affecting our stable at all, as far as what we do, whether we're entering horses, running horses, claiming horses, or buying horses," said Norman. "I'm able to walk, talk, and watch horses train when it comes down to it."

Norman said he has 40 horses on the grounds for the meet, and will have another 60 based at Louisiana Downs near Shreveport. Of the 60, about 20 are Louisiana-breds who will ship in to race at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La. The remainder of the horses will be shooting for races in Hot Springs.

"We'll have 80 horses to run at Oaklawn, and that's a good bit to run," said Norman. "We'll be shuttling back and forth."

Norman will be splitting time between Arkansas and Louisiana. He said he has brought on an additional shed row foreman to support his operation, which includes assistants Jorge Lara, who is at Oaklawn, and his brother, Oscar Lara, who will be at Louisiana Downs.

Norman and his wife, Tamara, are expecting a son, their second child, in February. Last year, he was the nation's fifth leading trainer in wins, with 242.

Beau's Town may stretch out

Beau's Town, one of the best horses in Norman's stable, ran a huge race off a 14-month layoff to finish second by a neck in the $250,000 Duncan F. Kenner Breeders' Cup at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs on Jan. 14.

"That was his first race back, and it was a great effort," said Dave Hulkewicz, who owns Beau's Town, a Grade 2 winner of $667,850.

Hulkewicz is discussing next-race plans with Norman, and said one logical option is the $50,000 King Cotton at six furlongs on Feb. 4, a race Beau's Town won in 2003.

"Or we could stretch him out," said Hulkewicz. "Part of me wants to try that. He does relax in a race. I think he would relax in a route. You never know. There's no better race to try than at Oaklawn Park in the short-stretch mile."

One-mile races at Oaklawn end at the sixteenth pole. Hulkewicz said he and Norman might also nominate Beau's Town to the Grade 3, $100,000 Essex at 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn on Feb. 11.

Beau's Town, 8, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96 in the Kenner. While he was away from the races, he had a small bone chip removed from an ankle. One of his biggest career wins came at Oaklawn, in the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap in 2003.

Hulkewicz and Norman are also discussing next-race plans for Kat Nan Do, a 3-year-old filly who earned a Beyer Figure of 92 for her win in a six-furlong, entry-level allowance at the Fair Grounds meet on Jan. 12. She covered the distance in 1:10.71.

Options include two Oaklawn races, the $50,000 Dixie Belle at six furlongs on Jan. 28 or the $50,000 Martha Washington at one mile on Feb. 19.

"I think she'll route," said Hulkewicz, noting she is a daughter of Formal Gold, who was a Grade 1 winner at 1 1/8 miles. "We'll leave it up to Cole."

Kat Nan Do races for Hulkewicz's wife, Kathy, and Nancy Basnett.

* Menacing, a candidate for the $250,000 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 20, will make his 3-year-old debut in the eighth race, a one-mile optional claiming event. Trainer Tim Ritchey has given the mount to Kendrick Carmouche.