Unbeaten Lost in the Fog, America's most popular racehorse, is now its best, according to the Aug. 29 poll of racing journalists conducted by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
What's not to like? Lost in the Fog's 4 3/4-length victory in the Aug. 27 King's Bishop at Saratoga--his first in a grade I stakes--was as impressive as any of his eight previous victories. He doesn't have to carry his racetrack with him, either, having won at seven different tracks since breaking his maiden at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California last November.
You can call this son of the Danzig stallion Lost Soldier an overachiever, but that label fits any horse that's gone nine races without getting beat. The fact is Lost in the Fog was highly regarded long before his first race last November. He brought $48,000, 12 times his sire's 2001 stud fee of $4,000, when he sold at the OBS August yearling sale. Good things were anticipated when Harry Aleo purchased Lost in the Fog privately after he was bought back for $195,000 at the OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training, though no one could reasonably expect a horse to go nine-for-nine.
Trainer Greg Gilchrist has done an admirable job for Aleo, keeping Lost in the Fog at distances he knows he can handle--from five to seven furlongs. He and Aleo resisted the Triple Crown temptation that few others have been able to avoid when they get their hands on a horse with such devastating speed and ability.
Even without running in the glare of the Triple Crown, Lost in the Fog still managed to gain great popularity. The trail that brought him to upstate New York went from Golden Gate to Arizona's Turf Paradise, Gulfstream Park in Florida, Aqueduct in New York, Golden Gate, Belmont Park in New York, and then Calder in Florida. He's set track records at Golden Gate (1:07.32 for six furlongs) and Turf Paradise (1:13.55 for 6 1/2 furlongs) and developed a legion of fans from coast to coast.
Gilchrist is a skilled horseman, one with a great deal of experience but limited opportunities. Aleo, who's owned horses for nearly 30 years, is taking his good fortune in stride and enjoying the success that Lost in the Fog has brought him.
He's also provided some entertainment, reminding me of an old feature from Mad magazine called "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions." He faced a barrage of stupid questions during ESPN's television coverage of the King's Bishop and Travers (gr. I). For example, when asked by a reporter why he didn't sell Lost in the Fog when offers for $4 million came in, Aleo said: "Then I wouldn't own him." To the question of what makes him so special, he said: "Because he can run fast." But the topper was an expletive-laced comeback to a question that asked Aleo to compare Lost in the Fog to his experience fighting in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.
Aleo and Gilchrist now have their eyes on the Oct. 29 TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I). Gilchrist hopes a perfect 2005 will persuade Horse of the Year voters to cast aside long-held biases against sprinters.
"If the horse did win out the rest of the year, ending with the Breeders' Cup, I think it would be very hard to bypass a horse that would be 10-for-10," he said.
It would also be unprecedented. No sprint champion has been voted Horse of the Year without also being a champion in the older male division. Ack Ack, Forego, Dr. Fager, and Tom Fool all were sprint and older male divisional champions and Horse of the Year.
Before Lost in the Fog is fitted with a crown, let's also remember he has yet to beat anyone outside of the 3-year-old division. If all goes well, he'll get that chance at Belmont Park Oct. 29.