Norman's Oaklawn Park Horses to Run in Assistant's Name

Beginning Thursday, Jorge Lara will be the trainer of record of horses racing at Oaklawn Park now with Cole Norman, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Lara, 36, has been Norman’s assistant for several years. Norman, Oaklawn’s six-time defending training champion is facing an uncertain future after he was involved in a fatal head-on automobile accident last Monday in Hot Springs.

Norman, who reportedly returned to his home in Bossier City, La.,  following the crash, didn’t saddle any of his horses last week, according to the newspaper. Norman was the trainer of record on three horses who won Thursday and another winner Sunday.

But when racing resumes Thursday at Oaklawn, Lara will be listed as the trainer of record in the program. Lara has four horses entered Thursday.

“This is being done in light, obviously, of the tragedy that has happened,” said Oaklawn general manager Eric Jackson. “There’s some personal issues that he [Norman] is dealing with and he’s not in position to train his horses. Our primary concern, obviously, also is the care and maintenance of his horses. We’ve just made sure that this has been done in an orderly process.”

Jackson told the newspaper that stewards who enforce the rules of racing closely monitored Norman’s situation before beginning the cumbersome task several days ago of overseeing his horses being transferred to Lara.

“It’s a complicated process,” Jackson said, referring specifically to paperwork involving Norman’s many owners. “There are a lot of parties here.”

Norman said before the meeting began that he had about 60 horses, including 40 at Oaklawn. Jackson said he believed that some of Norman’s horses have already been sent to other trainers. However, Jackson said Oaklawn’s decision to list Lara as the trainer of record for an undetermined period of time isn’t a presumption of Norman’s guilt.

No charges have been filed in the accident that killed Virginia Heath of Hot Springs, a cousin of former President Bill Clinton.

Norman, 38, set a single-season Oaklawn record with 71 victories in 2003. He had five victories in 36 starts this season to rank tied for second in the standings.

Norman has 1,887 career victories since going out on his own in late 1994 following the unexpected death of his father, trainer Gene Norman.