A couple of hours from now, late in the morning of May 5, Greg Gilchrist will take a flight from his Northern California base to LAX, then drive the three miles to Hollywood Park, where he will saddle a horse named Island of Zen. And then the affable trainer will call it a career.
Gilchrist has earned more than 140 stakes victories across the nation, although he will forever be linked with champion sprinter Lost in the Fog, with whom he travelled to every corner of the country, winning stakes in California, Florida, and New York. When Lost in the Fog contracted a rare form of equine cancer, Gilchrist did all he could to try and find a cure, then to keep the horse comfortable, and he handled the end with the same grace and dignity that marked his day-to-day demeanor.
His retirement at age 62 is more a statement on the status of the racing industry than on a personal desire to leave.
“It’s not so much that I want to quit training horses, because I love it,” said Gilchrist. “But here in Northern California, this isn’t even horse racing anymore. Fields are short; races don’t go. You can’t count on a first-level allowance going. I really wonder about the viability of racing up here.”
Gilchrist, a Vietnam War veteran, teamed with World War II veteran and Bay Area native Harry Aleo to form a winning trainer/owner team in Northern California. Aleo died in 2008.
“The people I’ve met, the places I’ve gone, the times I’ve had, wouldn’t have been possible without horse racing,” Gilchrist said. “I guess I’ll try fishing for awhile and see if I can stay in the boat.”
Gilchrist said he might stay active buying horses at sales if people are interested in having him do so, but did not want to set up a formal bloodstock business at this time.