05/05/2006 12:00AM

Norman seeks ninth straight training title


Cole Norman knows horsepower wins training titles. He has 15 training titles to his name at the age of 37, and this meet at Louisiana Downs is chasing his ninth consecutive top-trainer title at the Bossier City, La., track. If he snags it, he will tie the track record of nine set by Frank Brothers in 1980-88.

But even though Norman has dominated at Louisiana Downs since 1998, his stable is in somewhat of a rebuilding mode right now, and he is anxious about the meet that opened on Friday.

"We're short on horses and strong on clients," he said.

The rash of claiming this winter at Oaklawn Park, where 351 horses were taken for $6 million, has impacted the 45-horse stable Norman has on hand for Louisiana Downs.

"We're coming off an Oaklawn title and it was war," he said. "We lost a lot of shakes. If we would have come out of there with the horses that I wanted, we would have been really stout right now.

"We did a lot of claiming. But we got out-shook on half of what we went for. We were out shook for about 20 horses. If they were worth the money, every time four or five claims were in on them."

Norman has 90 horses in training, with a division also at Lone Star Park. His numbers are down from the 120 or so that has been the norm for him the past few years, so he will be focused on claiming at Louisiana Downs.

"We're like to really step up on the Louisiana-breds," he said. "For Louisiana-breds, just in the state, it's so good right now, so profitable. For a guy like me that's going to race in Louisiana, we need Louisiana-breds."

In a first, Norman plans to send a small division of horses to Fair Grounds this winter. He also plans to have a stable at Delta Downs, and over the past few months has increased the number of starts he has made at Evangeline Downs.

"It's going to be hard to win the Louisiana Downs title this year," said Norman. "But if we fire at them and claim and do what we're supposed to do, we'll be close. We'll give them a run for their money, but it's not going to be easy."

Norman sees his biggest challenge coming from high-percentage trainers Steve Asmussen, Pat Mouton, and Morris Nicks.

Durkin fan Stone is new racecaller

Travis Stone grew up near Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York, admiring the work of announcer Tom Durkin. He began his own career as a race caller on Friday with the words, "And they're off in the opener at Harrah's Louisiana Downs!"

Stone, 22, has prepared for this moment in a number of ways, including calling races on the roof of Saratoga. He has also called a few races at Suffolk Downs.

"Everybody always asked me 'What was it that ever made you want to do it'," Stone said of becoming an announcer. "And I don't remember one specific time that made me say, 'Whoa, wait a minute, I want to do this.' But I do remember growing up and practicing.

"I started to realize little by little that I was enjoying that, that was a lot of fun, so I wrote a letter to Tom Durkin and I asked him, 'What do you recommend that I do? How should I do this? I want to be a race caller, what courses do I take in college?' And when he wrote me back it was a neat little letter, and I was kind of off and running."

That was in 1996, and Stone has since graduated with a degree in communication arts.

"I do consider myself to be somewhat traditional," he said of his style. "I like to kind of remain calm and subdued and let the horses create the drama, let the horses do the work, and hopefully, I can describe it in a fun way."

Patterson full circle in Louisiana

Tony Patterson has come full circle at Louisiana Downs. A native of Ruston, La., he began his career in racing here, and now is the new racing secretary after 25-year veteran Pat Pope resigned in April.

Patterson, 45, comes to Bossier City from Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, where he served as assistant racing secretary since 2000. Before that, he was racing secretary at Remington Park in 1999-2000.

Patterson began his racing career as a claims clerk at Louisiana Downs in 1984. He is the grandson of the late trainer Pat Patterson, who won the first Louisiana Futurity in 1964.

"I've dealt with him for many years," said trainer Bret Calhoun, who has a division at Louisiana Downs. "He's going to be a top racing secretary."

Patterson's first condition book will come out later this month. The book in use was written by Pope, and it goes through May 26. "I'm in the process of writing one," said Patterson.