02/02/2004 12:00AM

Look for Electrode to be near front


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Trainer Cole Norman will be hoping for a fast track Wednesday when he starts Electrode in the featured eighth race at Oaklawn Park. Electrode, who has won half of his 12 career starts, is out to rebound from a sixth-place finish in the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap at Fair Grounds on Nov. 27.

"The track was sloppy and he just fell apart," said Norman, who trains Electrode for Jack Brooks.

Electrode raced over nothing but fast tracks last summer at Louisiana Downs, where he developed into a regional sprinter of note by winning 3 of 5 starts, including the $40,000 Island Whirl. During his campaign there, he defeated stakes winners That Tat, Compendium, and Doctor Mike, and earned four triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures.

With such accomplishments, he could go favored over six older horses in Wednesday's $75,000 optional claimer, which will be run at 5 1/2 furlongs. The field is completed by Cowboy Stuff, who will be making his first start since May; Night Caller, a winner of $470,049; Richest Half, a stakes winner at Oaklawn; Cojet, trained by the red-hot Bob Holthus; Pie's Little Brother, a winner of 5 of 10 starts at Oaklawn; and Holy Burrito, who invades from Churchill Downs.

Electrode was declared from the $50,000 King Cotton Stakes on Saturday in favor of running Wednesday. The race will be his first start in two months.

"We thought we'd have a long campaign, so we gave him a month off after Fair Grounds," Norman said.

The trainer looks for Electrode to be prominent on Wednesday.

"He's got to be up in the game," said Norman, who has given the mount to Jamie Theriot. "We tried to rate him one time, and it just discouraged him. He's got to be up in the race."

Cowboy Stuff, a multiple stakes winner, should also be close to the pace. He worked a bullet four furlongs in 47.80 seconds on Jan. 30. He has not raced since finishing second in the $50,000 John Wayne at Prairie Meadows on May 17.

Despite his excellent speed, Cowboy Stuff can stalk, and as a result he could get a nice trip behind Cojet, who should set the pace. In his last start Nov. 27, Cojet set the early fractions in a money allowance at Churchill Downs before finishing fourth. Leading rider John McKee has the mount on Cojet, while Terry Thompson will ride Cowboy Stuff for trainer Don Von Hemel.