January 11, 2010

Remembering ... Lost in the Fog

Something was not right, Lost in the Fog was too good to run like that. He had just finished ninth in the Grade 2 Smile Handicap at Calder Race Course. For just about any other horse, it would have been chalked up as simply a bad race, but he was not like other horses. Something was wrong. Lost in the Fog was not a horse who you could lump into a conversation with any other horse labeled as fast, nor was he a horse who occasionally ran the big race dazzling the crowd. He was much more than that. Lost in the Fog was faster than fast, he dazzled not on occasion, but every single race. He would simply run away from his competition. As the races got tougher, it made no matter, Lost in the Fog was simply too good. That’s what made the inconsistency of his final four races so perplexing. Something was not right, and to the horror of racing fans everywhere we soon find out the worst possible news.

Cancer is not something you suspect to stricken a young horse, and for a champion like Lost in the Fog, it was especially shocking. Lost in the Fog was diagnosed with a cantaloupe sized tumor attached to his spleen in August of 2006. The news was felt by everyone in the business. Tears flowed as everyone asked “how could this be?” In June he had impressively won a graded stakes at Churchill Downs. How could he have done that at such an advanced stage of cancer? The only explanation was, that it was Lost in the Fog and he was a special horse. This kind of faith in him led many to believe that he would beat the disease, that somehow, someway, Lost in the Fog would survive. I remember looking every day for fresh news on his health. At first it was believed that he could be saved, and there was no doubt that his loving connections would do everything possible to save him. I was hopeful. Millions were hopeful. Optimism would not last long; more tumors were discovered. Another large cancerous mass found was inoperable. There would be no recovery for this incredible horse. Lost in the Fog’s final days were at his home, where his trainer and crew kept their hero as comfortable as possible for his final days. As soon as they decided he was in more discomfort than he deserved, Lost in the Fog was put to rest.

Lost in the Fog was owned by a San Francisco octogenarian named Harry Aleo. Part of the fun in watching this horse run was Aleo’s joy in his horse’s accomplishments. Aleo had been in racing for years, but never had a big horse, until this one finally came along. The once-in-a-lifetime horse was Lost in the Fog and it changed the life of Aleo and trainer Greg Gilchrist. After his very first race, the three set out barnstorming the nation. Lost in the Fog would log more cross county miles than a normal stable full of horses normally accrue. You could tell that the crusty, conservative owner was having the time of his life. He finally had his big horse and he loved him. Aleo and Gilchrist resisted temptations to stretch their horse out for Kentucky Derby dreams, believing their horse was better off sprinting. They took care of him and Lost in the Fog returned the favor.

Aleo was hounded by prodigious financial offers for the colt, and by reporters who wanted to know if he would sell to one of the big outfits and cash in on the respect the world had for his horse. To Aleo this was silly, he had been waiting all of his life for a horse like this. For this man, it was not about money, it was not a business, he was thrilled to be around a horse of this quality and to watch him run. If only more horse owners could share this attitude.

Aleo and Gilchrist and regular rider, Russell Baze were not the only ones thrilled by Lost in the Fog. His modest beginnings, his traveling show, and his awesome ability, made him an easy horse for people to fall in love with. After a startling win in his first race, a maiden at Golden Gate Fields, Lost in the Fog would win nine consecutive stakes. Amazingly, he would go from San Francisco to Arizona to Florida to New York and back to San Francisco for his first five stakes. He was a horse for the people. From there he would go to New York to Florida to Saratoga and back again to San Francisco. It was an incredible display of consistent brilliance, no matter the travel. The major stakes were racked up one after the other, and the legend of Lost in the Fog grew.

Going into the Breeders’ Cup, it was pretty clear that Lost in the Fog would be a champion win, lose, or draw. He was beaten that day, but it would do little to tarnish his image or the incredible record that he compiled in less than one year’s time. I first knew of him after his second career start, a minor stake which he won by a pole in an astounding 1:13 2/5 for 6 ½ furlongs at Turf Paradise. I remember thinking 2-year-olds do not run that fast. Now ten months later he was sent off an overwhelming favorite of 7-10 against the top older sprinters in the nation. He was banged around at the start and battled through suicidal fractions. Eventually he succumbed to the early rigors of the race and his undefeated streak was over. He returned at four to win one of three races, but, as we soon learned, it was not the competition that got him, it was the disease.

Lost in the Fog, the 2005 Eclipse Award Sprinter, was put to rest on September 17, 2006 only a few weeks after doctors found the cancerous tumor in his spleen. The hero of Northern Californian racing, with the crooked blaze, began his career with 10 consecutive wins. Each and every one were tour de forces of blazing speed and ability. His first career defeat did not come until the 2005 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont Park, and now less than a year later he was gone, taken from the world by a hideous disease. He may have been already suffering the effects of his illness at the previous year's Breeders' Cup, as doctors believe the tumors may have been growing for up to a year. Sometimes bad things happen to good horses, but this one was especially heartbreaking. Lost in the Fog was better than good, he was great. I remember you Lost in the Fog.


Candice said...

Great story!! At least he didn't suffer too long.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for remembering the great...The Fog!


EquiSpace said...


Lost in the Fog was truly one of my favorites when I first discovered the game. I remember seeing his King's Bishop live, like it was yesterday at the Spa.

John Corey also produced a nice documentary on him. The story of Aleo alone is worth the purchase.

Brian Zipse said...

Thanks for the link Geno, definitely a film worth the price of admission.

JPoincelet said...

I was working in Northern CA while he was there training and running, and was able to see him everyday. It was a pleasure, and like many good horses, they KNOW they are good. He had such a way about him, and everyone was quiet when he walked from Greg's barn to the track as he passed them. Both Greg and his owner, Mr. A, always had his best interest at heart and it was a shame to lose him that way. Thanks for the wonderful article Brian.

tjreyn01 said...

He was an absolute joy to watch. In a sad way, it was almost a relief when they discovered that he had the tumors as it explained why he had suddenly went off form. I remember thinking, "can horses even get cancer?". Another grand horse gone too early for sure. The love that Mr. Aleo showed for him was so moving.

DerbyFan78 said...

Great story! I remember watching him run at CD as a 4YO and took several pictures of him. His presence was undeniable and he was a true champion. RIP LITF!

suek596 said...

Thanks for this. Lost In The Fog was one of my favorite sprinters, and I got to see him several times.

Steve Munday said...

Brian, great tribute to a great horse!

I bought the "Lost in the Fog" documentary that Equispace linked to - it did a wonderful job telling Mr Aleo's story. You're right about about how much Mr Aleo loved that horse w/out any concern for money or his own ego. His interview w/ ESPN's Jeanine Edwards at Saratoga was priceless.

Great to see an owner and trainer who's primary concern, above all else, was doing right by the horse.

Highly recommend the documentary to anyone who hasn't seen it yet.

LDP said...

He was fantastic and to die by cancer was not a fate such a talented wonderful horse deserved. I could not believe the news when it was announced he had cancer. The fact that he was able to race, and run so competitively with such an agressive form of cancer is astounding and is proof of how great he was. I'm glad you chose to remember him Brian, he deserved it.

Celeste said...

Beautiful, Brian. Thank you for remembering Lost In The Fog. Many will never forget him. Thanks!