01/30/2002 12:00AM

Norman staying put

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La., was in danger of losing the stable of four-time training champ Cole Norman until last Sunday, when officials announced purses would be increased 40 percent to $200,000 a day for the summer meet that runs from June 28 to Sept. 22.

Norman, who won a record 108 races at the track last year, said if purses had not gone up, economics would have forced him to take his stable to Arlington Park near Chicago this summer. Norman was the nation's fifth-winningest trainer in 2001, and in the last year the quality of his stable has surged.

"If they didn't do this, we weren't going to go back," said Norman, who is now based at Oaklawn. "I like it there. I like everything about the track. The only thing I was concerned about was the purses. It's hard to keep the good horses with [smaller purses]. Your owners just can't hardly do it."

Norman said the purse increase also comes as a relief, because last year he purchased a house near the track. "We've been waiting for this," he said. "I'm really happy about it."

The new purse structure puts Louisiana Downs, which plans to open a slots casino, on par with other tracks in the region.

"It creates a nice circuit; a little triangle," said trainer Kenny Smith, referring to Oaklawn, which pays out $230,000 to $250,000 a day in purses, and Lone Star Park near Dallas, which distributes about $240,000, and now Louisiana Downs.

Smith, a three-time training champ at Oaklawn, said with Louisiana Downs increasing purses, he will bring a stable there for the first time this summer. Louisiana Downs will pay out $100,000 a day during its fall meet, which runs from Sept. 26 to Nov. 10.

Shreveport attorney Jim Davis, who heads a group that has a contract to purchase Louisiana Downs, said the new purse structure will stand if the sale goes through before the summer meet opens. "We're not going to change anything when we take over," he said. Davis's partners in Louisiana Downs will include Winston Capital in Dallas.

Remington Rock to Essex

Remington Rock, who won a money allowance at Oaklawn last Sunday by 2 1/4 lengths, is to make his next start in the track's $75,000 Essex Handicap on Feb 23. Last year at Oaklawn, Remington Rock, who is now 8, won the Grade 3 Fifth Season Breeders' Cup.

"It will be a tough race, but I'm confident in my horse," said trainer Richard Jackson. "He likes this racetrack, and it seems like he's a step ahead this season compared to where he was last season. It seems like the older the better with him."

Unrullah Bull, who finished second to Remington Rock, is also pointing for the Essex, said Norman.

Blazing Count back after long hiatus

Blazing Count, who worked a bullet four furlongs in on Wednesday morning, must overcome a 1 1/2-year layoff to win the eighth race Friday at Oaklawn. The six-furlong conditioned allowance has drawn 12.

Blazing Count's biggest obstacles will be the more seasoned Beau's Town, who earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in a conditioned allowance race at Fair Grounds on Dec. 15, and Ludovicus, second in allowance company at Turfway Park in his last start Dec. 9.

Marlon St. Julien has the mount on Blazing Count for trainer Randy Morse.

* Hallowed Dreams worked five furlongs in a bullet 58 seconds last Saturday at her Evangeline Downs base in Lafayette, La. She is scheduled to make her next start in the $75,000 Pan Zareta at Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Feb. 9.