03/07/2002 1:00AM

Fine line separates two foes

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When bettors sit down to handicap Saturday's Lost Code at Sportsman's Park, they might find themselves paying a lot of attention to a pair of 7-year-old Illinois-breds. Magic Doe and Tic N Tim are the 120-pound co-highweights in the race, a $100,000 handicap at six furlongs that is the first stakes of the meet.

Magic Doe and Tic N Tin are no strangers to each other. Since last June 23, they have faced each other six times, and each has finished ahead of the other three times. Magic Doe has had the upper hand of late, winning three of their last four meetings, including a victory in the restricted Lightning Jet Stakes at Hawthorne last November.

Their most recent tussle came on Dec. 31 in an optional claimer at Hawthorne, with Magic Doe getting up in time to beat his arch-rival by a neck. Neither horse has started since, both resting up for a potentially long season on this circuit.

Magic Doe and Tic N Tin started a combined 31 times last year.

Deciding between the two of them might be difficult, but Tic N Tin might be better prepared in a few categories. He has had more success at Sportsman's than Magic Doe, and has registered a pair of bullet works at Fairmount Park in recent weeks. But it is doubtful bettors will overlook the fact Magic Doe was one length shy of winning five in a row to close out 2001.

Eclipse Award-winning owner Richard Englander will be represented in the Lost Code by Baltimore Gray. Trained by Scott Lake, Baltimore Gray has not officially won since February 2001, when he captured a money allowance at Aqueduct. He was placed first in a conditioned allowance at Belmont last May, but was subsequently disqualified due to a positive test for a banned substance. Baltimore Gray returned from an eight-month layoff on Feb. 24, finishing fifth in an Aqueduct allowance.

Trainer Gerald Bennett has entered two promising 4-year-olds, Secret Romeo and Winnie's Pooh Bear. Secret Romeo, a dominant force in Michigan-bred stakes at Great Lakes Downs last season, defeated open company in the Super Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in January. Winnie's Pooh Bear enjoyed success in Chicago last spring, winning an overnight stakes at Hawthorne in his third start. Two starts ago he won the six-furlong Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay.

Other fringe contenders include Meandmyloveman and Manitowish. Meandmyloveman can fire fresh and is fond of the Sportsman's surface. Manitowish split Magic Doe and Tic N Tin in the Lightning Jet.