Over the past seasons, Thoroughbred fans have been clamoring for horses that are tough enough to run more often; rugged enough to travel; possess the brilliance of horses of yesteryear; and stick around for more than one season before going off to breeding careers. No wonder racing enthusiasts around the country rushed to embrace 2005 champion sprinter Lost in the Fog.
The barrel-chested colt (Lost Soldier
-- Cloud Break, by Dr. Carter) possesses the complete package necessary for stardom -- charisma, speed, a striking blaze down the left side of his face reminiscent of champion A.P. Indy
, humble beginnings, and human connections who are engaging, honest, and confident enough to make the correct, if hard, decisions regarding their horse.
Lost in the Fog was able to assemble eight consecutive victories in 2005 only because trainer Greg Gilchrist and owner Harry Aleo recognized early enough what they had on their hands was a wondrously talented sprinter. Thus they were able to stand their ground when getting daily inquiries as to why their star wasn't being pointed down the Triple Crown trail.
"I knew I'd be second-guessed by thousands of people," Gilchrist said. "But the same people would have been second-guessing us after we finished 16th in the Derby."
Lost in the Fog, a 3-year-old in 2005, traveled an ambitious-enough itinerary through the year without the rigors of Churchill-Pimlico-Belmont. He raced at seven different tracks, making seven cross-country roundtrips from his San Francisco base, a feat in itself unmatched by any horse in recent memory. And until the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), he managed to do it all while remaining unbeaten.
He was equally as devastating at seven furlongs as at six, and from the top of the stretch to the finish line, Lost in the Fog increased his margin on the lead by a length or more in seven of his eight 2005 victories. He led at every call of every one of his eight wins except for two calls in the Swale Stakes (gr. II), when he was second early. Lost in the Fog not only has the ability to break from the gate like lightning, he runs his interior fractions like he's double-parked. When on his game, he went unchallenged.
Perhaps his most impressive performance came in June's Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park, even though that race represented his thinnest margin of victory ever. That day, a passel of other speed horses lined up against him, and his seven foes joined in a tag-team, a different one taking a run at Lost in the Fog with every furlong. Maintaining just a half-length lead for the initial five-eighths of the seven-furlong contest, Lost in the Fog appeared vulnerable when the highly regarded Egg Head tackled him turning for home. But the champ dug in and dusted Egg Head by 1 ¼ lengths.
Lost in the Fog's bid for an undefeated season came undone over the same strip at the Breeders' Cup Oct. 29. For the first time, he failed to show up with his "A" game, be it because of the rigors of a long campaign, or the fact he came unglued at the detention barn earlier in the day. Gilchrist, as classy in defeat as he'd been for the 50 weeks his charge had been unbeaten since debuting as a 2-year-old, refused to make excuses. The fact Lost in the Fog finished seventh, though, certainly indicated he was off his game on the day.
The good news is, after a two-month vacation in Florida, Lost in the Fog reported back to work at Gilchrist's barn in early January to begin training for a 2006 campaign, the main target of which will be another crack at the Sprint, to be run this year at Churchill Downs. Gilchrist indicated he will likely map out a less-rigorous campaign for his star this time around, with early plans calling for an April debut in California.
The tough-talking Aleo, a Bay Area native who bought his first Thoroughbred in 1979, gets full marks for returning Lost in the Fog to the races. He turned down numerous seven-figure offers for his horse throughout 2005. In his mid-80s, Aleo now has the horse he's been looking for, and he's in no hurry to turn him loose. "I'm in the racing business," he growled, "and if I took all those millions I wouldn't have this horse that has given me all this excitement and enjoyment."
Lost in the Fog: a throwback to racing's good old days, and a deserving champion.Voting for Sprinter:
Lost in the Fog, 209; Silver Train, 30; Saratoga County, 11; Ghostzapper, 7; Purge, 1; Taste of Paradise 1; Voter Abstentions, 3.To purchase photographs of this year's Eclipse Award winners, click here.