By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
Aleo likes to play coy whenever people ask what makes his horse special -- "He runs fast," is his stock answer -- but it's the horse's efficient motion that more than anything accounts for his brilliance on the track. The same thing caught Gilchrist's eye at the sale last year. "It's a fluid motion," he says. "His motion goes forward, not up and down." It's worth noting that, shortly after his birth, he was up on his feet almost right away -- within 15 minutes. "He didn't have any trial and error," his breeder, Susan Seper, says. "He just got up. Sometimes they're wobbly, but he didn't fall back down. His legs locked, and he got situated, and he was good to go. Kind of an amazing little thing."
The Dodds wound up getting Lost in the Fog for $48,000, expensive given his pedigree. He was still "a little bullheaded," Karen Dodd says, but by that point Mitchell had worked out many of his kinks, and he quickly learned how to run, how to gear up and down at a rider's command. "He was not a mean horse," Dodd says. "He liked to bite, which a lot of colts do. It wasn't malicious. He wasn't trying to attack you, but he'd get you if he had the opportunity." Today, Garcia has bruises on either arm, which he reveals with a big smile. "Some of the greatest horses in history have been some of the orneriest sons of bitches," Greg Gilchrist says. "Barry Bonds ain't the public's favorite. I can't stand the bastard, but he's one of the best players to ever put on a uniform. You can find that in most people who're successful. Most people who do well in life have a little backbone to 'em. They don't go down easy."
Out on the track, Lost in the Fog works four furlongs in just over 47 seconds, a swift and easy tuneup for him. From Aleo's perch against the rail, a good distance from the horse's starting point, all that can be seen of Lost in the Fog is the red blur of Baze's jacket. One spectator turns to Aleo, awe-struck. "He started up fast," he says. "Goddamn he started up fast." Limping back to the barn, Aleo is greeted by just about everyone, including one man who tells him, "You're a good man, Harry Aleo."
"What did I do now?" Aleo asks.
"You stood up to that jackass that stuck that microphone in your face. You're a national hero right now."
We gather by the stable and watch quietly as Lost in the Fog gets his sponge bath and alcohol rubdown, the steam rising from his back in spectral tufts. "Look at him," Aleo says. "He knows he's good. I never used to believe that, but my trainer tells me when they get good, they know it. Look at him, the way he's standing. Amazing. He knows he's special. Look at him bucking up there, the son of a gun. Once in a lifetime. Maybe never, huh?"
Spend an hour at a track like Bay Meadows, and horse racing's various strata are plain to see. There are the tiny Hispanic jockeys, and the stocky Hispanic grooms (often with handlebar mustaches); there are the hard, wizened bettors -- Asian, as often as not -- back in the darkened theater, watching races halfway across the country; there are the old folks up in the clubhouse, happily dropping a Social Security check on a horse because it shares a name with their dog; there are the frat boys at the bar; there are the owners up in their boxes, hair swept back and cigars aflame; there are the novices, puzzling over their Daily Racing Forms. You can even see the divisions among the Bay Meadows employees: the young Hispanic women in the turquoise shirts working the private boxes; the older, whiter people in the green shirts behind the betting counter; the track's management, white, sun-reddened, and generally well-dressed.
So it is something to see when, on the Thursday before the Bay Meadows Speed Handicap, Lost in the Fog is led into the indoor paddock. He has been brought here merely to acclimate him to the new surroundings, and yet everyone at the track -- the hard bettors, the old folks, the frat boys, and in general the sort of midweek contingent that doesn't come for the pageantry of the sport -- presses against the rail. Even track employees dot the crowd, snapping photos like everybody else.
This was why Aleo elected to run Lost in the Fog here, instead of a better race with a much bigger purse at Belmont. "You've got all your friends here and everything," Aleo says. "It should be a big deal." Moreover, with the horse's victories piling up and with the Breeders' Cup fast approaching, the Bay Area's Lost in the Fog craze was starting to peak. It had started back in May, when he broke the track record at Golden Gate Fields. Later, at a workout in Santa Rosa -- a mere workout -- people packed the grandstand and gave the horse a stirring ovation. Two different painters picked up their brushes and began working on portraits (horse, Golden Gate Bridge, fog). One hat company made up a Lost in the Fog ball cap; it sold out. The papers started picking up the story, too, everyone finding room to mention that Aleo once pitched to Joe DiMaggio in a pickup game out at the old Funston Field (DiMaggio fouled out on the third pitch, "a dinky curve"). In September, you couldn't watch TV without seeing a Bay Meadows spot promoting the race ("Saturday, Oct. 1, the Fog rolls in at Bay Meadows!"). The Daily Racing Form swooned: "He has grabbed more headlines than Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston."