07/13/2004 11:00PM

Who's the little guy in between two giants?


It's not often that a trainer splits Cole Norman and Steve Asmussen in the standings at Louisiana Downs or Lone Star Park, where the pair dominate. But that is the case this meet at Louisiana Downs, where Charles Hukill ranks second to six-time title winner Norman, and is three wins in front of Asmussen, who is in third.

Hukill is quick to point out that he does not have the numbers to maintain his position between the two powerhouse stables for the entire meet. Norman leads the standings by a pole, and Asmussen's presence will increase now that he has wrapped up his fifth training title at Lone Star, which closed Sunday. Still, the season Hukill is having is very noteworthy.

Hukill has won with 18 of 92 starters, and in addition to his lofty rank among trainers, he leads the owner standings at Louisiana Downs with 11 wins from 53 starters through Wednesday. He also has three horses who will start as leading contenders in their respective races on Friday, incl-uding Record Assembly, dead-heat winner of last year's $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park.

"This is the best I've ever done here as a trainer," said Hukill, 67, who breeds and owns the majority of the horses he trains. "We've been very fortunate. We have a lot of horses that still have conditions in front of them, so I feel like we're going to [continue to] have a decent meet. But we try to let the horses do the talking."

Hukill has 28 horses stabled at Louisiana Downs, and another 27 horses at his 75-acre farm and training center in Canton, Texas, which is about a two-hour drive from the track.

He has been an owner since the 1970's, but decided to take out a trainer's license about six years ago when he turned over the day-to-day operation of his Plano, Texas-based landscaping and sprinkler business to his son. Hukill has done well in his role as trainer, and has continued to raise quality Texas-breds with the help of his wife, Lynn.

At his farm, Hukill stands the stallion Sand Tunnel, a son of Gulch whose stakes winners include Lucky Tunnel, winner of the $30,000 Super Bowl Stakes this year at Sam Houston. Sand Tunnel is also the sire of the promising colt Secret Tunnel, who was second to Crawfish King in the $50,000 Pioneer Stakes last Saturday at Louisiana Downs.

Both horses will be pointed for the Texas Champions Day program later this year at Sam Houston, as will the Hukill-bred Record Assembly. Record Assembly, a son of Record Catch, will shorten up to 6 1/2 furlongs in the ninth race on Friday after running third at 1 1/16 miles last out in the $50,000 Ark-La-Tex Handicap at Louisiana Downs on June 20.

The last time Record Assembly shortened up from two turns to one, he won an optional claimer over seven furlongs at Louisiana Downs on June 3. Jose Riquelme has the mount Friday.

Record Assembly will face seven others in the starter allowance. Hukill's other starters on the card will come in the first, with Dusty Tunnel, and the third, with Wild Native Lady.

Five straight for Queena Corrina?

Due to Win Again, who won the $50,000 Honeymoon Stakes opening weekend at Louisiana Downs, will drop back into the allowance ranks for the first time since January in the featured seventh race Friday. A 7 1/2-furlong turf allowance for fillies and mares, the race also drew Queena Corrina, who is looking for her fifth straight win, and the Norman-trained I'm the Business.

* The $50,000 Delicada for fillies and mares on dirt Saturday has been canceled because of a shortage of entries for the race. The feature on Sunday is the $50,000 Island Whirl Handicap.