02/11/2007 1:00AM

Norman's horses transferred to assistant


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The majority of horses in the care of trainer Cole Norman are being transferred to his longtime assistant, Jorge Lara, less than a week after Norman was involved in a head-on car collision in Hot Springs, Ark., that resulted in the death of an 86-year-old woman.

Norman's training license remains intact, said Gary Wilfert, state steward at Oaklawn.

Lara said he will take over 50 horses, with four of them entered in Lara's name for Thursday at Oaklawn. Entries for that program were taken on Sunday. Lara saddled Glasnevin to win the fifth race at Oaklawn on Sunday on behalf of Norman.

"He's going to focus on personal issues, and that way the horses will be trained by me and I can focus 100 percent, keep the barn the way he always does, winning races," said Lara, 36. "I've been his assistant for a long time, and we've got a good team, so we're going to keep going. That's where we stand right now."

Lara, a former jockey, went to work for Norman in 1998 as an exercise rider, and was promoted to assistant trainer in 2003. Lara said he rode from 1989 to 1993, at such tracks as Oaklawn and The Meadowlands.

"I [also] rode a little in Louisiana and Texas, and then I just couldn't make the weight," said Lara.

Norman, 38, is currently with his family in Louisiana. The Arkansas State Police are investigating the accident, which took place on Feb. 5, and no charges had been filed as of Friday. According to the accident report, Norman, while traveling on Highway 7 South, crossed the center line and hit a vehicle driven by the woman, Virginia Heath. She died three hours later at St. Joseph Hospital in Hot Springs.

Norman has won the past six training titles at Oaklawn.