ELMONT, N.Y. — About 32,800 miles later, Lost In The Fog, the well-traveled colt from the San Francisco area, arrived at Barn 11 at Belmont Park, where he'll run in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Saturday.
Lost In The Fog ate up, as trainers like to say, rolled contentedly in his bedding, and then stuck his head out the stall door, just to make sure he wasn't missing anything.
This was last Saturday. Just in from the West Coast, the horse was obviously feeling at home. Greg Gilchrist, his trainer from Golden Gate Fields, the track in Albany, Calif., took a lead shank and gave Lost In The Fog a few tours of the shedrow.
"He was pulling so hard, he put my arm to sleep," Gilchrist said later. "He probably sleeps better than I do. If there was a song for him, it ought to be 'The Travelin' Man.' He seems to relish all the traveling."
In June, the last time Lost In The Fog visited this track, he won the Riva Ridge Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Of the 10 races the undefeated 3-year-old has won, Gilchrist said that the Riva Ridge was probably the best, which doesn't bode well for other horses in Saturday's Sprint.
To date, no track and no opponents have gotten in Lost In The Fog's way, and it should add to his advantage that the Breeders' Cup race is six furlongs, one furlong shorter than the Riva Ridge. Late-running types, such as Imperialism, have less time to catch Gilchrist's speedball at the wire.
The Sprint is a $1-million race, one of eight on a card that will total $14 million in prizes, but for Lost In The Fog, there might be more on the line. He may emerge as a bona fide horse-of-the-year candidate, if he hasn't already.
Voters usually don't cuddle up to sprinters when racing's highest honor is discussed, but Lost In The Fog's record -- nine for nine this year if he wins Saturday -- would be a compelling accomplishment. Gilchrist, who trains Lost In The Fog for Harry Aleo, an 85-year-old practicing real estate man, says he is only here to win the race. Lost In The Fog has already earned $889,075, not counting expenses, which for Aleo are steadily piling up.
Since he won his first race, at Golden Gate last November, Lost In The Fog has rarely run at home. He registered his first stakes win in Arizona; he has made cross-country trips to Florida and New York three times apiece. He has scored his 10 victories at eight tracks, including all three major New York ovals: Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct.
For about five seconds last spring, Aleo and Gilchrist considered the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown. They knew, though, that Lost In The Fog was built for shorter distances. The Triple Crown is nice if you win one of the races, but it chews up many of the have-nots, and can also be unkind to the successful horses. This year's Triple Crown winners, Giacomo in the Derby and Afleet Alex in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, are not around for the Breeders' Cup.
Had Lost In The Fog been his, Gilchrist probably would have sold him by now. Aleo has been rejecting multimillion-dollar offers for months, and now is saying that Lost In The Fog will run in his colors for two more years.
On behalf of Aleo, Gilchrist bought Lost In The Fog for $140,000, in a private transaction after their $195,000 bid at a public auction had been found wanting two weeks earlier. The consigners, Greg and Karen Dodd, withdrew the horse from the Florida sale after the last bid failed to reach their $199,000 reserve, the minimum they were willing to accept for the horse.
"After he came out of the sale, I went back to the barn to get another look at him," Gilchrist said. "Jess Jackson and his trainer, Bruce Headley, were already there, looking at him, and I thought, 'Uh-oh. What chance are we going to have with those guys?' "
Jackson, the wine magnate from Geyserville, Calif., has wealth estimated at $1.8 billion by Forbes magazine. But he and Headley, who have since split up, moved on, and the Dodds, whom Gilchrist considers friends, accepted Aleo's offer.
Gilchrist, 57, a third-generation horseman, has had only one previous Breeders' Cup starter. He ran Soviet Problem, a filly, against males in the 1994 Sprint at Churchill Downs. They finished second to Cherokee Run, beaten by a head, after Soviet Problem was fully extended early by Honor The Hero in a furious speed duel. Soviet Problem still almost outlasted Cherokee Run.
Opponents of Lost In The Fog would like to see him get cooked early, the way Soviet Problem was.
"The trouble with that is that this is a Sprint unlike most of them," said trainer Bobby Frankel, who won the Sprint at Belmont with Squirtle Squirt in 2001. "Other than Lost In The Fog, there doesn't seem to be a lot of speed in the race."
Gilchrist will leave the tactics to Russell Baze, who has ridden Lost In The Fog in all but one of his wins. Edgar Prado was the jockey instead of Baze, who was injured, in the Riva Ridge.