By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
Today's races draw more than 8,000 fans, double the track's usual Saturday turnout. Lost in the Fog T-shirts are given out at the door. Tom Chapman, a jockey turned artist, sells prints of the horse from a table inside. Everyone, it seems, is here for Foggy: the kids wearing the giveaway shirts down to their ankles; the guy with the limp and the grocery bag who announces to no one in particular, "They named that horse after me, because I'm always lost in the fog"; the woman placing a small bet on him just so she can keep the betting slip as a souvenir (profit on a $2 bet: 10 cents) ; the many, many people who approach Aleo to tell him just how long it's been since they've come to the track and how much they liked that ESPN interview.
As the five horses near the gate for the eighth race -- all of them patsies with the exception of one named Halo Cat -- Aleo is wedged into a corner in his private box, surrounded by family and friends. One of John Corey's cameras is trained on him, and Aleo's Stetson is just visible over the clutch of fans who've stationed themselves nearby. Down on the infield, the track tote board has fritzed out. "He broke the whole damn board," someone says. (Which may or may not be true. One explanation later offered, perhaps apocryphal: Lost in the Fog attracted so much place betting across the country that the board couldn't handle the extra digits.)
Lost in the Fog is in the one hole, which puts him on the rail, and just moments after the horses are shot from the gate, the race is already won. His first few strides are remarkable, an easy lope to the front of the pack, not a violent rush. As Gilchrist's assistant, Linda Thrash, later notes, he now runs with an ear cocked, listening for hoofbeats behind him, a sign he is not just sprinting to please his jockey -- he is competing. Lost in the Fog's lead after a quarter-mile is a length and a half, then it's 2 1/2 lengths, then it's four, and at the line Halo Cat is more than seven lengths behind.
On the TV broadcast, the announcer's call of the stretch run is a steady crescendo of jabber about Lost in the Fog; with every half-sentence, you can almost hear the horse widening his lead: "And it's Lost in the Fog! He's all over this group! He approaches the final furlong in complete command! Halo Cat can only watch him run away! So it's Lost in the Fog! He will remain undefeated! A perfect 10 for 10! But still! One more victory is required! To silence the skeptics! And prove to everyone that he's the best sprinter in the world!"
Later, after the winner's circle photos and about a thousand handshakes, after the media interviews in a tiny office and several Crown Royals in the clubhouse bar, after everyone has loosened his tie and someone swipes John Corey's clapboard and starts yelling, "Action," Gilchrist, his wife, and a few family members escape to the barn. Outside the sky is darkening, and the grooms are kicking a soccer ball around the infield. It is almost 7 p.m. Lost in the Fog is in his stall. "He's taken a couple bites out of people," Thrash says. "He's feeling like King Kong ... a little bit on the grumpy side." We watch quietly for a while as Garcia ministers to him. Behold, the big horse: eyes bloodshot, mouth working over a bale of hay, now turning his back to everyone, now lifting his tail ....