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Sure, Best Pal looks Special but so did Arazi, didn't he?


It sounds as if they're getting ready for a coronation at Pimlico Saturday. Best Pal is that much of a favorite in the 27th running of the $700,000 Pimlico Special.

There's no doubt Best Pal deserves to be the betting choice.

The 4-year-old, who'll be top-weighted at 126, is undefeated (4-for-4) in 1992. He has been carefully prepped for this race. He's been on the Pimlico grounds since April 16. His 6-furlong work here Sunday in 1:12 delighted trainer Gary Jones.

On Best Pal will be his regular rider, former Maryland champ Kent Desormeaux, who has four wins and a second since taking over the mount.

Best Pal, who ran a close second to Strike the Gold in last year's Kentucky Derby and finished a disappointing fifth in the Preakness, may be the best horse in the country as advertised. At least he's the best older horse. (How'd you like to be in a game where you're old at 4?)

But let's not get the idea he's a superhorse. After all, Strike the Gold hasn't won a race since the Derby.

We all should have learned something about sure things last week in the Kentucky Derby. Arazi couldn't lose, remember? He finished eighth.

* Notre Dame comes to town Sunday afternoon to play Johns Hopkins in a first-round game in the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse tournament.

This won't be the first ever meeting of Hopkins and the Fighting Irish, although you have to look hard to find their previous encounters.

The schools met in swimming in 1985. They met in lacrosse, too, in '81. But that was Hopkins' junior varsity against Notre Dame's varsity. One of the Hopkins players that day was Jim Margraff, then the Blue Jays football quarterback, now the school's head football coach.

"We had a bunch of football players playing JV lacrosse to stay in shape," recalls Margraff. "I think Notre Dame was on a spring tour in the East so we played 'em."

Hopkins-Notre Dame will be for real this time. The loser's season will be over. The winner will play at Towson State in the quarterfinals the following weekend.

If the winner is not Hopkins (6-4 and the No. 5 seed), it will be the biggest upset in lacrosse history. Notre Dame is only in the tournament because it was deemed the best team in the West.

But the Irish coach, Kevin Corrigan, son of ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan, does not see the game with Hopkins as most do.

Corrigan said last week his team, which is now 10-4, can play with anybody in the country.

"We don't have enough to win the tournament -- to win four games," says the Irish coach, "but we have enough to beat Hopkins on a given day."

* America is rapidly learning of the charms of Oriole Park at Camden Yards but it will be shocked, nonetheless, when Baltimore ends up second in the majors in attendance this year. The way we're going here, we should edge the Dodgers at the gate.

Only Toronto, which again will top 4 million, will outdo the Orioles. SkyDome holds 51,000; Camden Yards is 47,000 -- although smaller gatherings have been announced as sellouts.

* Here's an example of the kind of superciliousness that makes me, as a lifelong Baltimorean, dislike Washington:

A D.C. paper, in trying to explain the O's attendance, said yesterday Baltimore is "sandwiched between America's two most important cities [New York and Washington, of course] like a slice of cheap bologna between two pieces of gourmet bread." The writer even tossed in Philadelphia and said Baltimore in that foursome "is like Joe Pesci standing with Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise and Tom Selleck."

Hey, you been to D.C., New York or even Philly lately? I'd rather live here any day.

Reminds me of the time I spoke to a journalism class at College Park along with the sports editor of the Washington Post, George Solomon. A student from D.C. asked me if I purposely write down to the Baltimore audience.

"Why would I do that?" I asked.

"You know," he said, "Washington is wine and cheese and Baltimore is beer and crabs."

Before I could say another word, a student from Baltimore leaped to his feet, pointed at the D.C. kid and shouted: "You're full of ---- boy!" Which no doubt confirmed the D.C. kid's opinion of our town.

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