ELMONT, N.Y. - He has never been beaten, never been challenged. He has won his six races by a combined 45 3/4 lengths. And, although he's not running in the Belmont Stakes, he's the most exciting, and perhaps the most brilliant, horse running Saturday at Belmont Park.
His name is Lost in the Fog, and he'll be the overwhelming favorite in the $200,000 Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup. Like the Belmont, the Riva Ridge is restricted to 3-year-olds. But the Belmont is 1 1/2 miles, and the Riva Ridge is seven furlongs, or seven-eighths of a mile. Therein lies the difference.
Lost in the Fog is a sprinter, or at least he's been a sprinter so far. His 57-year-old trainer and, especially, his 85-year-old owner resisted the lure of the country's glamour races for 3-year-olds, in particular the Triple Crown series.
Potentially great horses such as Declan's Moon, Sweet Catomine, Wilko, Bandini and Bellamy Road suffered the consequences of Triple Crown strain and were injured, or, in the case of the filly Sweet Catomine, retired. Year in and year out, trainers and owners ruin horses pushing them toward the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
That's why the connections of Lost in the Fog - Greg Gilchrist, the trainer, and Harry Aleo, the owner - deserve kudos.
"We've got a nice horse," Aleo said. "We want to do what's right for him."
Aleo has operated a one-man real-estate office in San Francisco for 58 years. He made enough money to start buying racehorses in 1979, and now, to turn down offers to buy or retire Lost in the Fog to stud.
Asked how much he's been offered for Lost in the Fog, Aleo said: "I don't want to tell you. You'd think I'm a damn fool."
Gilchrist has already told Aleo that he's a "damn fool" for not selling the colt, a Florida-bred son of the sire Lost Soldier and the dam Cloud Break. Gilchrest said that after Lost in the Fog's second race the offers ranged from $2 million to $2.5 million. Aleo paid $140,000 last year for Lost in the Fog.
"If it'd been me," Gilchrist said, "he'd been sold, and I'd probably be lying on the beach in Barbados wishing the people who had him lots of luck."
As it is, Gilchrist, based at Golden Gate Fields in San Francisco, trains the best horse of his 30-year career. Russell Baze, the northern California riding star, has ridden Lost in the Fog in his six races.
But yesterday, Baze apparently broke his collarbone in a spill at Golden Gate, Gilchrist said. He'll have to find a new jockey for the speedy colt.
A stocky horse with an off-center blaze down his face, Lost in the Fog is also Aleo's best horse.
"He'd probably be the best horse for 99 percent of the people who've ever owned horses," Aleo said.
Aleo watched Seabiscuit race in 1936 at Bay Meadows and Citation race in 1950 at Golden Gate. In 1938, Aleo bet on Seabiscuit to win his match race at Pimlico against War Admiral. Delivering groceries for his parents, who owned a grocery store in California, Aleo recalls pulling his truck over and listening to the match race on the radio.
When Aleo was pitching for San Francisco Junior College, he faced Joe DiMaggio. Preparing for spring training with the Yankees in 1940 or '41 (Aleo can't remember which year), DiMaggio participated in a pickup game against the junior college team.
Aleo threw DiMaggio a "dinky curve," and the Yankees' great popped out to the third baseman.
"Remember, that was before spring training," Aleo said. "If he'd have been in shape, he'd have hit it out of the park."
Aleo also spent three years in the Army, fighting with the 87th Infantry at the Battle of the Bulge.
"I'm just happy to be here," Aleo said.
Despite recent offers from major Kentucky farms to stand Lost in the Fog at stud, Aleo plans on campaigning the colt as long as he's sound and competitive in top races. At some point, he plans on trying Lost in the Fog in longer races, but for now the colt's goal is the seven-furlong King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga. The Aug. 27 race would be the first Grade I stakes for Lost in the Fog.
"That would be like his Kentucky Derby," Gilchrist said.
Both trainer and owner are enjoying their association with one of the country's fastest horses. Lost in the Fog has already broken two track records.
"I'm 85 years old, and this is fun," Aleo said. "You know the commercial that says there are some things money can't buy? Watching this horse come down the stretch, set track records ... the excitement. You can't buy that."
Belmont Stakes field
PP Horse Trainer Jockey Last race Odds
1 Nolan's Cat Dale Romans Norberto Arroyo Jr. 2nd, Churchill Downs maiden 50-1
3 A.P. Arrow D. Wayne Lukas Jerry Bailey 1st, Churchill Downs maiden 20-1
4 Southern Africa Mike Puhich Jon Court 1st, Lone Star Derby 12-1
5 Giacomo John Shirreffs Mike Smith 3rd, Preakness 4-1
6 Watchmon Patrick Reynolds Javier Castellano 2nd, Belmont allowance 50-1
7 Andromeda's Hero Nick Zito Rafael Bejarano 8th, Kentucky Derby 15-1
8 Reverberate Sal Russo Jose Santos 2nd, Peter Pan 6-1
9 Afleet Alex Tim Ritchey Jeremy Rose 1st, Preakness 6-5
10 Indy Storm Nick Zito Edgar Prado 1st, Pimlico allowance 20-1
11 Chekhov Patrick Biancone Gary Stevens 4th, Peter Pan 12-1
At a glance
What: 137th Belmont Stakes
Where: Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y.
When: Saturday, post time 6:38 p.m.
Purse: $1 million
Distance: 1 1/2 miles
TV: Chs. 11, 4, 5:30-7 p.m.