12/21/2005 12:00AM

Norman has neck surgery

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Trainer Cole Norman underwent surgery on Wednesday to remove a damaged disc in his neck, an injury sustained in an all-terrain vehicle accident at his Haughton, La., home Monday. He is expected to wear a neck brace for about three months, said his wife, Tamara.

Norman had the surgery at Louisiana State University's Shreveport Medical Center in Shreveport, La.

"They went in through the front, and they're going to take out the damaged disc and fuse the vertebrae together with plates and screws," said Tamara Norman at 2:45 p.m. Central on Wednesday while she was waiting for her husband to emerge from the operating room. "They're saying if surgery goes well, he could go home maybe tomorrow or Friday."

That prognosis is much better than the early word on Norman's injuries Monday.

"It didn't sound too good at first, but as they ran more and more tests it turned out not to be as bad as they originally thought," said Tamara Norman. "So, we got real lucky."

Norman operates one of the nation's largest stables, and he ranks fifth in North America in trainer wins this year. His operation is based at Louisiana Downs, and in his absence his assistants, brothers Jorge Lara and Oscar Lara, are overseeing the barn, said Tamara Norman.

"When the nurse buzzed his room today and said, 'Mr. Norman, we're coming to get you for surgery,' he picked up his mobile phone and immediately called Jorge one more time to make sure he had entries right," she said.

Norman, who will turn 37 on Dec. 31, has three horses in for Saturday at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs, where he is the second leading trainer. Since he has been in the hospital, he has kept up with proceedings at the track.

"Last night I went home, and he had me fax the condition book to the ICU nurse's station," said Tamara Norman. "He can't feel too bad, you know."