09/17/2006 11:00PM

Lost in the Fog euthanized

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Lost in the Fog, the reigning champion sprinter, was euthanized on Sunday, a month after veterinarians first discovered that he had inoperable lymphoma.

The colt had tumors on his spleen and under his spine that did not respond to treatment with steroids. Earlier this month, owner Harry Aleo and trainer Greg Gilchrist decided to pursue chemotherapy in the hopes of putting the cancer into remission. But when the colt began showing signs of "extreme abdominal pain" on Sunday afternoon, according to attending veterinarian Dr. Donald Smith, Aleo and Gilchrist decided euthanasia was the only course.

Lost in the Fog died at 5 p.m. Pacific in Gilchrist's barn at Golden Gate Fields.

"We did everything we possibly could," a subdued Aleo said from his office on Monday afternoon. "But it's kind of heartbreaking. To have a great horse like that and he never got the chance to pass on his genes. And he never really got a chance to run his best races in his prime."

Lost in the Fog, 4 years old and a dark bay or brown colt with a crooked blaze, was modestly bred, sired by Lost Soldier out of Cloud Break, by Dr. Carter. He brought just $13,000 when he first went through an auction ring as a weanling at the 2002 Keeneland November sale. Just three years later, he captured the public's imagination with a 10-race win streak that spanned two racing seasons and carried him from a muddy maiden race at Golden Gate Fields to Grade 1 glory at Saratoga.

Aleo, a San Francisco resident who owns a real estate agency, had intended to purchase Lost in the Fog at the 2004 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s March select juvenile sale. But, with Gilchrist bidding on his behalf, Aleo was the underbidder when the hammer fell at $195,000.

When it turned out that the hammer price was below the colt's reserve and he had gone back to consignor Southern Chase Farm unsold, Gilchrist arranged to purchase Lost in the Fog privately two weeks later for Aleo.

Gilchrist was surprised to acquire the colt, because among others interested in him was Stonestreet Stable's well-heeled owner Jess Jackson.

"I thought, 'Well, I have no chance of buying this horse,' " Gilchrist recalled. "But I guess there was something they didn't like about him. That was a good thing for me, because I don't think I'd have gotten him otherwise."

Aleo and Gilchrist's persistence paid off better than they could have guessed.

At 2, Lost in Fog won his first start, a maiden special weight at Golden Gate, by 7 1/2 lengths. Gilchrist was impressed enough to put him in stakes company in his next start, in the 2004 Arizona Juvenile Stakes at Turf Paradise, and Lost in the Fog ran away to win by 14 3/4 lengths.

Over the next nine months, Lost in the Fog extended his win streak to 10 and developed a national following along the way.

During his streak, which lasted from November 2004 until October 2005, Lost in the Fog won at eight tracks in four states. He raced from New York to California, finally earning Grade 1 status with a victory in the King's Bishop at Saratoga. He also won the Grade 2 Carry Back, Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup, and Swale stakes and the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes, as well as the ungraded Bay Meadows Speed Handicap, Golden Bear Breeders' Cup Stakes, and Sunshine Millions Dash.

He also set a pair of track records, one in his stakes debut at Turf Paradise where he covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13.55, and the other in the Golden Bear at his home track of Golden Gate where he set a mark of 1:07.32 for six furlongs.

"When he ran that day at Golden Gate, he doubled their attendance," Aleo recalled. "All my family and friends were there, and he set a track record - I'll never forget that.

"He really did have an aura about him," he added. "I don't know what it was. I guess it was the fact that wherever he went, he just kept winning. And he was coming from northern California, which some people called a second-rate circuit, and he showed so much heart. They'd cheer him when he walked into the paddock. He was once in a lifetime, absolutely."

Lost in the Fog's streak came to an end in the 2005 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont Park. Sent off as the race's favorite - as he was in all his starts - Lost in the Fog got caught in a four-horse speed battle. He held a narrow lead as the runners headed into the stretch, but he tired and finished seventh behind the winning Silver Train.

But that performance did not sway Eclipse Award voters, who handed Lost in the Fog the 2005 sprint championship in a landslide, giving him 209 votes to Silver Train's 30.

Lost in the Fog returned to the races in 2006 but struggled to regain his old form. He made his season debut in the ungraded Golden Gate Sprint on April 22, losing by three lengths to Carthage. He came back to win the Grade 3 Aristides Breeders' Cup Handicap at Churchill by 1 1/4 lengths, but lost badly in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap on July 15, finishing ninth in what would be his final race. He closed his career with a record of 11-1-0 in 14 starts and $978,099 in earnings.

When Lost in the Fog showed signs of colic the following month, Gilchrist sent him to the University of California at Davis, where veterinarians diagnosed the lymphoma.

Aleo retired his stable star immediately. The tumors were too large to be operable and did not shrink with treatment by the steroid dexamethasone.

Gilchrist and Aleo decided at first to return Lost in the Fog to his Golden Gate stable to live out his days, but later opted to try chemotherapy. Lost in the Fog began that treatment in early September. But on Sunday, after appearing normal during his daily walk with Gilchrist, Lost in the Fog colicked badly.

"He was sweating and rolling in his stall," said Smith, his attending veterinarian. When Lost in the Fog did not respond to a painkiller, Gilchrist, Aleo, and Smith decided the time had come to euthanize the colt.

Lost in the Fog will be cremated, and his ashes might be interred or spread at Golden Gate, Aleo said.

"He did the right thing by us," Aleo concluded, "and we tried to do what we thought was right by him, always. But there will never be another one like him."

- additional reporting by Chuck Dybdal