07/28/2005 12:00AM

Norman has two shots that can fire


Leading trainer Cole Norman can pull a Louisiana-California sprint stakes double this weekend. His bid begins Saturday at Louisiana Downs, when he sends out That Tat and Grand Bank against Rodeo's Castle in the $50,000 Island Whirl Handicap.

Sunday, the Norman action shifts to Del Mar, where he will start Top Commander in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup.

That Tat was a good third to Top Commander in the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap in April, and will rule as one of the top choices in the six-furlong Island Whirl. The race's defending champ, That Tat is co-highweighted at 121 pounds with Rodeo's Castle, who has never been beaten at Louisiana Downs.

That Tat finished fourth to Rodeo's Castle in his last start, May 14, after pushing a hot pace in the $75,000 Ford Express at Lone Star Park. That Tat broke from post 3 in the six-furlong race, which went in 1:07.80, and should benefit from breaking from gate 7 in the field of seven Saturday.

"I think he likes being outside," said Norman.

The post could enable That Tat, who was freshened after his last start, to get a stalking trip behind the front-running Rodeo's Castle, while Grand Bank could show speed from his rail post. While both Norman starters are versatile, no firm strategy has been set.

"One can be on the lead and the other can be stalking, but I'm not sure which will do what," said Norman. "We'll make the decision at the break."

Grand Bank, who is not coupled with That Tat, has won three of his last six starts, his latest a 6 1/4-length romp in a conditioned allowance June 16.

"His last race was so impressive," said Norman. "He fell out of the gate, he rushed up, got checked, and went around the field."

John Jacinto has the mount on Grand Bank, while Jamie Theriot will ride That Tat.

Rodeo's Castle was fourth in the $100,000 Claiming Crown Rapid Transit at Canterbury Park in his last start, on July 16. In three career starts at Louisiana Downs, he has won a maiden race, a nonwinners-of-two, and a stakes, with the stakes victory coming May 29 in the $50,000 Kings Court. Trainer Beverly Fowler has given the mount to Jeff Burningham.

Others of interest in the field include Watchem Smokey, the Kings Court runner-up, who is 3 for 4 at Louisiana Downs.