Death on the Internet

by Ed Meyer

posted on March 25, 2016 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, | 1 Comment >>



We all remember the first time we attended a funeral. We dressed up, and felt that uneasy feeling as we looked around without wanting to see the casket. – We’ve seen our share, and as we age we’ll go to more of these than weddings or baby showers. – When you hear about a death of a friend on the Internet, there is a certain coldness. It wasn’t a call from a friend or family member, but you read a glorious tribute of feelings on-line. Sometimes it will be an email, and the new method of conveying the news is Facebook. – This month has been a busy month for bad news from the racing world. We read about trainers we’ve followed, and the special people who were close in our daily lives. – Racing can be the family many were missing, and this month has served up more than a regular helping of sad news.


Cole Norman

Norman won a number of training titles at Southwest tracks, including Oaklawn Park, Lone Star, and Louisiana Downs. He grew up in Lafayette, La., working for his father, Gene Norman, at Evangeline Downs and eventually took charge of the stable when his father died in November 1994, according to the  – Norman saddled his final starter in 2007 to cap a record that includes 1,885 victories from 7,385 starters for a 26% strike rate. His runners earned more than $30.2 million. He sent out the winners of 126 stakes, including six graded stakes winners: Unrullah Bull, Beau’s Town, Pie N Burger, Eagle Lake, Absent Friend, and Top Commander.

I can name about 50 winners I cashed when I would see the Norman barn send a runner to the races. – If you’re a social media fan and active on Facebook, there are tons of “groups” that draw racing fans. Most are handicapping, but you’ll see old pictures, stories, and the sad entries about the people we follow daily. This is where I first read about Cole Norman’s passing.

We all have problems, and sometimes they end up in the media. – In Feb. 2007, Norman was involved in a driving-impaired automobile accident in Hot Springs, Ark., that resulted in the death of 86-year-old Virginia Heath. He was under the influence of painkillers when he caused a wreck. He was sentenced to six years in an Arkansas prison after being found guilty of negligent homicide and served about nine months before being paroled in January 2009, according to the

After serving his time, he was breaking young horses at Hurricane Bluff training center near Benton, La. – It had the sound of man trying to find his way back. – Racing was a place he was familiar and had quite an extended family. Sadly, it comes too late and we forever ask what happened ? – Could we have helped ? – We’ll never know in this lifetime, and all we can do is honor those who are no longer with us and move forward.


Jeff Lukas

Turfway Park was not the usual stomping ground of the powerhouse D Wayne Lukas barn. But a few times a year the Florence, Kentucky track would be over-flowing with the stars of the game. – The Kentucky Cup Day of Champions was created to be a springboard for the Keeneland meet and on to the Breeders’ Cup. – This was the first time I had the opportunity to meet Jeff Lukas.

He was a dapper looking young man who inherited the swagger of his father, but he had a sense of cool about him. The same thing you see from Todd Pletcher, Dallas Stewart, and many others. – I think this kind of quiet confidence belongs to the ones who have started at the bottom and have quietly toiled their way to the center.

Tough, dedicated, and determined are how friends remember Jeff Lukas, who died this week at age 58, according to – “I started off with Jeff as an exercise rider, at the bottom, and I mean he was tough,” said trainer Dallas Stewart, who rose through the Lukas Racing Stable organization to become an assistant under Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Jeff’s father. “He was focused and a really great horseman.” – When Stewart started with the Lukas stable, he worked with Winning Colors, the 1988 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Jeff Lukas is credited with developing. – Things looked so bright, he had to wear the familiar trademark sunglasses of Team Lukas.

Also being remembered is the brilliant training career cut short by the aftermath of severe brain injuries Lukas suffered in December 1993, when he collided with Tabasco Cat, loose and in full stride through the Santa Anita barn area, according to the – Lukas’ brain injuries were so severe, he nearly died on several occasions. When he did begin to heal, his personality changed dramatically and he retained some long-term damage to his memory and his vision. Lukas eventually carved out a quiet, peaceful life in the southeastern Oklahoma town of Atoka. – In a 2013 interview with Steve Haskin, Wayne Lukas said that accident is the one thing he would change about his life, describing his son as “the backbone of the operation for so many years.” – “Jeff accepts the cards he was dealt,” Lukas continued in that interview. “But he’s doing really well. He lives through his children, according to the

I can see the young man in the tailored suit walking with a confidence that only comes from being prepared. – W.T. Young, Eugene Klein, and a host of names who made up the game. They had the best runners and trusted them only to the best handlers. – It seems just about the time Jeff Lukas was getting ready to take flight, life grabbed him and changed his course. He didn’t complain, and made the best of what he had. A man of no excuses who made the best of the cards in his hand. – When the accident first happened, I wondered about the “what-if’s” for his life. – But the professional in the man was not broken. From all accounts, I never heard a negative regretful moment. – It took me back to the days when I was a parking manager, and drove him to the airport to meet the rest of the team. He was a young man who took the time and painted the picture of the big win. He shared it with a parking lot kid who loved the game and hung on his every word. I have to say the 10 minute ride to the airport was a one-of-a-kind memory.