03/17/2003 12:00AM

Norman praises team for 1,000 wins

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Trainer Cole Norman reached a personal milestone of 1,000 career victories Saturday, and this week, will likely break the record for trainer wins in a season at Oaklawn Park.

Norman, 34, enters the week six wins from breaking trainer David Vance's record of 50 set in 1974.

"It would be a nice accomplishment to look back on," said Norman, who has six horses in Wednesday. "The whole team wants to do it."

Norman credits the team, which includes his wife, Tamara, his owners, staff, and horses, for reaching 1,000 wins. He won four races on Saturday's card, and the milestone came in the ninth race with Mystic Night.

"It was a lot of work," Norman said. "I remember waiting on the first win, then the first 100. It was a fun ride. I just wish Pa was here to see it."

Norman began training in 1995 following the death of his father, trainer Gene Norman. He started with a five-horse string, and now has 140 horses in training, with 40 stabled at Oaklawn. Last year, Norman's strongest, he ranked as the third winningest trainer in North America.

Vance had a 40-horse stable when he set the record. He won five races the last day of the meet to hit 50.

Norman holds the record for trainer wins in a season at Louisiana Downs, with 125.

Options for Beau's Town

The Norman-trained Beau's Town, who set a stakes record when he won the $150,000 Pelleteri at Fair Grounds Sunday, was to arrive back at his Oaklawn base Monday, said Dave Hulkewicz, who co-owns Beau's Town with Bobby Beck.

The horse's next start could come in either the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Handicap at six furlongs here April 10, or the Grade 2, $250,000 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup at seven furlongs at Keeneland April 13.

"We're going to nominate to both races," Hulkewicz said. "In the sprint division, there's not a dominant horse right now, and I think among the top 10 sprinters in the country, he fits into the mix."

Beau's Town has won 8 of 11 career starts, and is undefeated at Oaklawn, where he won the $50,000 King Cotton Feb. 1 in his first start since August.

Mandy's Gold stays put

No decision has been made on the next start for Mandy's Gold, who finished a troubled third as the 2-5 favorite in the Grade 3, $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup Saturday.

Trainer Mike Gorham said Mandy's Gold will train here for a little while before he decides whether to leave her in town for the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 5.

"We're going to kick it around for a few days and see," Gorham said. "She came out of the race fine.

"She tried to jump a shadow at the three-eighths pole, which kind of knocked her off stride and she had a little while to recover. After the fact, instead of being on the lead she ended up dropping back, getting pinned down on the rail, and didn't have a whole lot of room.

"I think that definitely cost her the race, and the jock thinks so, too."

Mandy's Gold, who was ridden by Rene Douglas, was beaten 1 1/4 lengths by winner Bien Nicole.

Cojet a sentimental favorite

Cojet, winner of the $75,000 Colonel Power at Fair Grounds in January, will be a sentimental favorite Sunday when he starts in the $50,000 Hot Springs at Oaklawn. His owner and breeder, Dan Jones, died last week and was buried Monday.

Among the stakes winners Jones raced were Overpeer, who won the Hot Springs in 1991, and Potentiality, who won the Hot Springs in 1992.

"He was a dear friend and a wonderful man to train for," said Bob Holthus, who trained for Jones for about 15 years and manages Cojet.

Jones, 58, is survived by his wife, Lorene, and two children, Rachelle and Christopher. Holthus said the family plans to remain in racing. Jones lived in Little Rock.

* A field of 12 fillies and mares were entered in Wednesday's ninth, a $35,000 optional claiming race. There is not a clear-cut favorite among them.

* Great Notion worked five furlongs in 1:01 Sunday in preparation for the $125,000 Rebel for 3-year-olds at Oaklawn Saturday.