10/21/2008 12:00AM

Gilchrist takes another shot at Cup


ARCADIA, Calif. - It's tough to give Greg Gilchrist a hard time for his 0-for-3 record in the Breeders' Cup, even though he's tried to win the Sprint with a heavy favorite and two second choices. Anyway, he's the last guy in the world to pass the buck.

In 1994, Gilchrist hit Louisville with the vibrant filly Soviet Problem, the pride of California and fresh from victory in the Laurel Dash. She was the only female in the Sprint field of 14 and she lost by a head, to Cherokee Run, after a ferocious stretch battle. It turned out that the gate was placed another 30 yards or so up the chute that year, to give the field a longer run before they hit the main track gap.

"That's what got us beat," Gilchrist deadpanned. "I could have trained her for that extra distance, but I just didn't have enough time to make up the difference."

In 2007, Gilchrist took multiple stakes winner Smokey Stover back to New Jersey after he'd already won the Icecapade Stakes there during the summer. Sad to say, it was a whole different Monmouth Park greeting them in October. This time, Smokey needed fins.

"I knew from the way he trained back home at Golden Gate he couldn't stand up in the mud," Gilchrist said. "I didn't get much sleep that night before the race, listening to the rain. I told the jock to just try as far as he could, but when it was hopeless just bring him home." Smokey beat one horse.

Then there was the 2005 Breeders' Cup Sprint in New York, which still sticks in the throat, mostly because Gilchrist brought the unbeaten Lost in the Fog to Belmont Park, with a 10-for-10 record and the following of a rock star. Lost in the Fog took the lead at the eighth pole, then caved.

"I know that horse was not right, and yet he still tried to run his race," Gilchrist said. "He was a very nervous and uncomfortable horse that day, and that was his ace in the hole. You used to have to get him up to go run him. He never expended any energy worrying about a race. I remember thinking that for the first time ever, taking that horse over, I didn't have much confidence in him."

Gilchrist will try to tip the scales his way Friday when he sends out Indyanne for owners David and Jill Heerensperger in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. A gray daughter of Indian Charlie, Indyanne has lost only once in six starts, and that was her troubled second in the Victory Ride Stakes at Saratoga in August.

"She's a good-sized filly, and she acts like she ought to get a mile," Gilchrist said. "I think we'd better worry about seven furlongs first, though. If she can get that on Friday, a mile really won't matter, will it?

"I sure wish there was a Filly and Mare Sprint the year Soviet Problem ran," Gilchrist noted. "She was just raw speed, that filly. But she had a hole in her tendon you could have stuck a quarter through. Like anybody else, it was my first time at the Breeders' Cup and I had stars in my eyes. You're thinking, 'Should I train hard, maybe train less?' Then after watching some of the others back there, I think I had one of the soundest horses entered.

"It just tells you how hard it is to get to a race like this, let alone win one," Gilchrist added. "If there's 180 horses in the Breeders' Cup races, I guarantee you 160 of them have people worried about a foot, a knee, a blood count, a tendon. There's always something."

No kidding. No matter what happens with Indyanne, it will be impossible for Gilchrist to ever shake the final chapter of the Lost in the Fog story. Not that he'd ever try.

Reigning as 2005 champion sprinter, Lost in the Fog returned at age 4 in 2006 to win the Aristides Handicap at Churchill Downs. A hundred days later he was dead, euthanized to spare him from the agony of malignant tumors that attacked his spleen and coiled around his spine.

The bittersweet tale is told brilliantly in "Lost in the Fog," a documentary by John Corey that has been making the smaller film festival rounds this year. The thread of the story begins with owner Harry Aleo, a plain-talking bastion of right-wing Reaganism adrift in "looney" San Francisco and follows through Lost in the Fog's championship campaign before unraveling in chilling sorrow. Gilchrist, a gravel-tough Vietnam vet, was asked what he thought of the film.

"First of all, you don't get much out of watching yourself in something like that," Gilchrist said. "It's a great story and John did a really good job on it. But I just saw it the one time."

Gilchrist has said - both in the film and to friends - that a day does not go by that he does not think about Lost in the Fog. The colt's Golden Gate stall was left empty in his memory . . . until just recently.

"Until they took Bay Meadows down, Lost in the Fog's stall had not been used," Gilchrist said. "Now we need all the space we can get. I've got a horse in there now that I haven't run, and a pretty decent little horse. I guess we'll see."

DRF.COM: Breeders' Cup Journal - Daily Racing Form's Jay Hovdey and Marcus Hersh take you behind the scenes on the Santa Anita backstretch during Breeders' Cup Week in an exclusive online column.