06/05/2006 11:00PM

Miss Norman starts anew


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - For a filly still eligible for the most basic allowance condition, Miss Norman sure has drawn a lot of attention.

Miss Norman was in the news several weeks ago when she was purchased by Lewis Lakin and Clifford Grum for a reported mid- to high six-figure sum. A few days earlier, the filly flaunted her considerable speed when opening up on the Kentucky Oaks field down the backstretch, though she faded to finish 12th of 14 starters.

And before that, made an unforgettable run as a 41-1 shot in the April 14 Fantasy Stakes. On the lead turning for home, Miss Norman suddenly bolted to the outside, surrendering the lead to the eventual winner, Ready to Please. Undeterred, Miss Norman began making up ground in the stretch when she bolted again - yet she still finished second.

"The Fantasy was a strange race," said Bob Holthus, who has assumed the training of Miss Norman for Lakin and Grum at Churchill Downs. "But we've just kind of thrown all that out and started back from scratch with her."

Holthus has named the Grade 1 Test Stakes on Aug. 5 at Saratoga as a long-term objective for Miss Norman. But first, he wants to see what he has, and that initial rite of passage will come Thursday at Churchill when Miss Norman faces eight other 3-year-old fillies in the feature race, a 6 1/2-furlong allowance with a $54,000 purse for those who have not won two races.

"We're going to start her sprinting and see where we are," said Holthus. "Quite honestly, we've trained her like a normal horse and she's never done a thing wrong."

Miss Norman, by Artax, will have John McKee aboard when she breaks from post 5 in the eighth of nine Thursday races. The spot doesn't appear to be an easy one, as several other fillies with the capability of making it through this condition will oppose her, including . The rest of the field is Bright Sunshine, Azevedo, Impelling, Tactical Warning, and Monterey Bay.

The feature isn't the only Thursday race at Churchill that attracted an Oaks also-ran. The third race, a first-level allowance route worth $54,000, drew Ex Caelis, who finished last in the Oaks but had a big excuse, having thrown a fit just before the start. She is a main contender on Thursday in a field of six.

Bootery and Maxine's Hymn are her main challengers.