"You can never take anything for granted," he said. "Ever."
Norman's Bee A Magician is undefeated in seven races this year and was last seen trotting the fastest mile in harness racing history by a 3-year-old filly when she won the Delvin Miller Memorial in 1:51 at the Meadowlands Racetrack on July 13. She is the No. 2-ranked horse in the sport's Top 10 poll, trailing only 3-year-old pacer Captaintreacherous.
She was among 14 fillies entered to the Hambletonian Oaks, so two seven-horse eliminations will be contested Saturday night at the Meadowlands. The top five finishers from each elim advance to the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks final on Aug. 3. The Aug. 3 card also features the $1.2 million Hambletonian for 3-year-old trotters.
There was some speculation that Bee A Magician could enter the Hambletonian and take on the boys, but Norman squashed such talk last week. He knows winning the Hambletonian Oaks is enough of a challenge, no matter how good your filly.
In 2010, Norman trained Hambletonian Oaks favorite Poof She's Gone, but the filly went off stride in the final while challenging eventual winner Bar Slide for the lead on the final turn. Last year, he trained 57-1 Hambletonian Oaks longshot Personal Style and watched her win the race when favorite Check Me Out went off stride on the final turn.
Interestingly, the connections of Check Me Out faced the same decision as Norman in regards to whether to enter the Hambletonian or the Hambletonian Oaks. When trainer and co-owner decided on the Oaks, many thought it would be easy money for Check Me Out. Instead, she got no money at all.
"Luck plays a big part in a lot of things," Norman said at the time.
Bee A Magician has won all seven of her starts this year and earned $505,706 for owners Melvin Hartman, Herb Liverman and David McDuffee. For her career, the daughter of -Beehive has won 17 of 20 races and banked $1.27 million.
Hartman, Liverman and McDuffee also shared ownership in Poof She's Gone. Hartman owned Personal Style (with Brittany Farms) so he will be trying for his second consecutive victory in the Hambletonian Oaks, along with Norman.
"That only matters if it happens so I don't even think about it," Norman said.
Bee A Magician won the Miller Memorial by 4-1/2 lengths over Frau Blucher to lower the world record for 3-year-old filly trotters, which was previously held by Check Me Out at 1:51.2.
Frau Blucher, who has won four of five races this year, is also in Bee A Magician's Hambletonian Oaks elim. Bee A Magician starts from post one; Frau Blucher from post five.
The remainder of the elim field is Fashion Athena, Miss Steele, Ma Chere Hall, Handover Belle and Deja Vu Too. The second elim is Time To Kill, Southwind Cocoa, Raring To Go S, To Dream On, Coffeecake Hanover, Mistery Woman and Classic Martine.
Had 13 or fewer fillies entered the race, eliminations would have been unnecessary and all of the horses would have advanced to the Aug. 3 final.
"I was happy they had 14; I wanted to race the horse," Norman said. "I'm quite happy that they're having eliminations. We got a good draw. We're back in with Frau Blucher, who is probably the toughest horse, but we beat her last time so I feel pretty good about it."
He also feels good about the decision to race in the Hambletonian Oaks rather than the Hambletonian, even if it guarantees nothing.
"I've said that all along that I would not be surprised at all if my race goes faster than the Hambletonian," Norman said. "But, I said to someone the other day, just because Serena Williams is the best women's tennis player it doesn't mean she would beat the men.
"I'm happy where we're at. I feel a lot more relaxed racing against the fillies than I would against the colts. I would be very nervous racing the colts and I'm not nervous racing the fillies. If this blew up in your face you wouldn't be able to get over it for a long time."