By Erin Sherbert
By Howard Cole
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By Leif Haven
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Gilchrist's stables are a collection of low-slung green buildings not far from the track. As we wait for Lost in the Fog to be led out of his stall, Aleo and I watch some of the other horses canter to-and-fro, many of them beneath a female rider. "A lot of women in this business," Aleo says. "I used to hate it, years ago. It just didn't go with the horses. But over the years I've thought, 'You know, they get along better with the horses.'" A heftier woman bounces by on a horse. "Now there's an extra-sized rider," Aleo says. "That's kind of like a batter when he picks up two bats. The horse loves the jockey then."
After a few moments, Lost in the Fog materializes in the distance, next to his groom, Pascual Garcia. Garcia knows the horse as well as anybody. He flies with him for out-of-town races (Lost in the Fog, it is said, "travels better than a Samsonite"), coos to him all day in broken English ("Heyheyhey, where you goin', Foggy?"), even sleeps in the barn with him, or at least close by him, the night before races. Garcia was with Gilchrist back when the trainer had Soviet Problem, the 1994 California Horse of the Year, but Garcia says this horse, Foggy, is his favorite. "This is the big horse," he says. The big horse: It's that rare simple phrase in the lexicon of the track; horsepeople use it to refer to the breadwinner of any given stable, but also, more generally, to any great horse. "Too much class, this horse," Garcia says.
Now Lost in the Fog is in front of us, being mounted by Russell Baze, the Hall of Fame jockey who is probably Northern California's best contribution to the sport since Seabiscuit, and we all get a good look at the horse. People always say he is beautiful, which he undoubtedly is, though one has to wonder if there's ever been an ugly 10-0 horse. He has a dark brown coat, which grades to black around the legs, and which ripples thickly with his every movement; across it is a complicated network of veins. The thing that strikes you, though, is the blaze, the white stain that takes a kind of gypsy path off the left half of his face, a wonderful quirk for a great horse.
Aleo stands off to the side. "I can't believe, looking at that horse, that he's the No. 1-rated sprinter in the world," he says softly. "You know that?"
Says Adami: "And you own him."
"Can you believe that? It's unbelievable."
As captivating as the horse himself is, it is how people react to him, how they behave in his company, that's truly remarkable. There's an almost reverential silence, not just among the visitors, but among the grooms and assistants in the stable, too. Granted, that may have as much to do with the early hour and the foul weather, but nevertheless everyone around him is watching; no one seems to be moving except Baze, still pulling himself into the saddle. People have noted that an intensity radiates off Lost in the Fog, which is probably why the other horses in the stable shrink a little when he's led from his stall. Como un diablo, Garcia says. Like a devil.
He has always been that way, a complication for anyone looking for a genial symbol of the underdog. "He was obnoxious," says Kelli Mitchell, also of Ocala, who bought the colt from Seper as a weanling. "Don't use that word. He was awfulto take care of." She sounds cautious, as if this were a minor blasphemy. "He would just bite you every step of the way. Like when you'd want to walk, he'd want to trot. You'd want to go left, he'd want to go right. He was just annoying." She hastens to add: "It's fairly typical. All colts have some amount of that in him. He probably had more than a typical horse."
Lost in the Fog has, as horsepeople like to say, a modest pedigree. He is by Lost Soldier, his sire, out of a mare called Cloud Break, his dam. On paper, on a lineage chart, he was anything but impressive. At an Ocala yearling sale in 2003, Karen Dodd scanned the consignment sheet and asked her husband if he wanted to see "a Lost Soldier." He said: "I don't care nothing about a Lost Soldier." At the time, Lost Soldier was not a well-regarded stallion, but as Dodd points out, the industry is notoriously fickle, with studs drifting in and out of fashion. When he was paired with Cloud Break, Lost Soldier's stud fee was $5,000; today, at Buck Pond Farm in Kentucky, it stands at $12,500, and his photo is plastered on billboards all over Lexington, calling him the "sire of the fastest 3-year-old in the world."
Waiting for another horse, Dodd and her husband saw Lost in the Fog walk by. "We both looked at each other, like, 'Wow,'" Dodd says. "We both knew what the other was thinking. He was a gorgeous animal -- the balance. He had the balance and the power."