An insight to the expected battle between Unbridled and Summer Squall in Saturday's Pimlico Special can be gained from a decision made by jockey Pat Day.
Day rides both horses and had his pick in this Grade I, $750,000 race. He elected to ride Summer Squall, last year's Preakness winner, rather than Unbridled, the 1990 Kentucky Derby winner.
"It was a very difficult decision," Day said. "There was no one thing to hang your hat on.
"Both are training well and coming up to this race well. The distance [1 3/16 miles] was no factor. My horse won at a mile and three-sixteenths last year. We obligated ourselves to Summer Squall last year so we did it again this time."
Summer Squall worked five furlongs in 1:00 flat at Pimlico yesterday morning in the rain. "I'm pleased," said trainer Neil Howard.
The day before, Unbridled went five furlongs at Churchill Downs in 0:59 3/5. Carl Nafzger, trainer of the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic winner, called it "a real good workout."
Although Summer Squall and Unbridled are the stars of the Pimlico Special there are five others in the field capable of championship form:
Farma Way, winner of $903,350 and the Santa Anita Handicap this year; Festin, the Argentine import who upset Unbridled in the Oaklawn Handicap last month; Jolie's Halo, unbeaten until running third in the Oaklawn; Reputed Testimony, the lone Maryland-based entrant; and Silver Survivor, winner of the New Orleans Handicap in March.
The "Scintillating Seven," as the field is being called, have earned $8,845,496 in their careers.
"This might be the best horse race you've laid your eyes on in a long time," said Cocky Johnson, longtime employee at the Pimlico stakes barn. Some even say it could be the best horse race run in North America this year.
* An interesting new color commentator showed up over the weekend working with Ralph Kiner on New York Mets telecasts, although you have to admit the rookie is knowledgeable about the Mets.
The new man was Frank Cashen, the Mets general manager -- and former GM of the Orioles. Cashen, who spent 10 years as a sports reporter at The News American, filled in for Tim McCarver, who was away doing a network broadcast. Said Baltimorean Hank Linz, a close friend of Cashen's since their days at Loyola College: "Frank sounded great. I listened for 15 minutes before I realized it wasn't a regular announcer."
* Admission standards change from time to time at universities, and this year high school lacrosse players in the Baltimore area are finding it harder to get in North Carolina and Virginia. Only 30 percent of Virginia's student body can come from out of state; at Carolina it's 15 percent.
The flip side of that is it turns out to be a plus for local colleges. Boys' Latin, a 12-2 team that already has won the MSA A Conference Division II championship, will send its entire starting midfield of Josh Pomles, Chris McGhay and Chris Krastel to Towson State (although Krastel also has been accepted by Mount St. Mary's and is not 100 percent certain about TSU). Boys' Latin attackman Kevin Lutz and defenseman Stan Ross will go to Loyola College in the fall.
* They weren't kidding when they said that last Saturday night's lacrosse game at Towson State with Johns Hopkins drew an overflow crowd. People were actually turned away. Said Kathy Altemus, a former All-America at James Madison: "Six of us got there 15 minutes before the faceoff. Two had bought tickets in advance. They were let in. The other four were sent away."
Boys' Latin coach Bob Shriver was glad he got in, if only to see the one-on-one battle of All-Americans Rob Shek and the Hopkins defenseman who played him, Brian Voelker. Said Shriver: "It was like Dave Pietramala playing Syracuse's Gary Gait a couple years ago."
* Good news for parents of high school and college football players:
For the first time in the 60 years that records have been kept, no deaths occurred during the 1990 season that were directly attributable to injuries received on the football field. As recently as 1968 there were 68 deaths from football.
The physical education professor at North Carolina who conducted the study, Frederick O. Mueller, says the progress has been achieved through rules changes adopted in 1976 prohibiting use of the head as the initial point of contact during blocking and tackling.
Unfortunately, there was sad news to report yesterday, when Chucky Mullins, the University of Mississippi football player who was paralyzed after making a tackle in a game two years ago, died of complications from a blood clot in his lungs. He was 21.