10/31/2005 1:00AM

Lost in the Fog exposed as far from great

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ELMONT, N.Y. - There were a lot of good horses on display in Saturday's Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park. But this was another one of those years when the Breeders' Cup lacked a great horse. And that assessment is pointed specifically at the horse so many were certain would prove his greatness, and the horse who was, for better or worse, the face of this Breeders' Cup, Lost in the Fog.

My position on Lost in the Fog has been crystal clear all year. I respected that he had been able to hold winning form for almost a year while making seven cross-country trips, but I was extremely skeptical of what exactly he had accomplished taking the path of least resistance during his 10-race win streak. I acknowledged Lost in the Fog had the potential to become a top-class sprinter/miler, but quickly stressed that he was a very long way from proving it. And that is because up until Saturday Lost in the Fog had never faced, let alone defeated, a good, proven horse. His undefeated record was fashioned almost totally at the expense of the horse racing equivalent of the San Francisco 49ers, which is to say, a bunch of bums. The best horse Lost in the Fog faced was Egg Head, now deceased, and when he struggled to beat him by a little more than a length in the Riva Ridge Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard, he did so while riding the crest of a speed bias.

Well, in Saturday's Sprint, Lost in the Fog, somehow the marquee horse going into this Breeders' Cup, was exposed. Sure, he contested the pace four wide, but guess what? The outside was definitely the best part of the Belmont main track Saturday. Sure, Lost in the Fog contested quick fractions, but guess what? The horse with whom he contested those fractions, Attila's Storm, a 45-1 shot who had just advanced from his two-other-than allowance condition, finished three positions and 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Lost in the Fog. Lifestyle, a 55-1 shot who was completely taken out of his speed game when clobbered at the start, finished ahead of Lost in the Fog. Lost in the Fog quit. Great horses may lose, but they never, ever quit.

If you think I was doing cartwheels from one end of the Belmont grandstand to the other after the Sprint, you're mistaken. I'm much more concerned with rooting for horses I select and bet on than rooting against anyone. But I would be lying if I didn't admit that I did feel a sense of vindication. And that is because over the course of this year, I was subjected to a degree of abuse for my position on Lost in the Fog that was shocking in its volume and tenor.

Perhaps it is a reflection of the conservative times we live in when dissent is not tolerated the way it should be. Perhaps it is because so many in this game are so desperate for a great horse, they don't want anyone to spoil the party, and are willing to delude themselves. Whatever. I'm not a sycophantic cheerleader. If pointing out that it was way too premature to coronate a horse like Lost in the Fog, who had proven only that he could master pitiful competition, rubs you the wrong way, remember, it's a considered opinion. It is not cause to banish me to Siberia.

Speaking of considered opinion, the episode concerning Leroidesanimaux racing with two aluminum pads in the Mile, in which he was beaten less than a length by Artie Schiller as the 6-5 favorite, was disgraceful.

It is a New York racing rule that if a horse is to race with aluminum pads, a surefire indication of a compromising physical problem, it must be noted at time of entry, which in this case was Wednesday. This even appears from time to time on the NYRA overnight. There was, of course, no mention of Leroidesanimaux racing with aluminum pads at entry time, because there was no intention to race him Saturday with that sort of foot protection. But when Leroidesanimaux was sore Saturday morning after the aluminum pads were removed, they were put back on. It was only then that it was first announced that Leroidesanimaux would race in the Mile with two aluminum pads.

The big problem here is that as the heavy favorite in a Breeders' Cup race, Leroidesanimaux had a ton of money bet on him in a variety of pools. Every penny wagered on Leroidesanimaux during advance Breeders' Cup betting on Friday was bet without the knowledge that he would be wearing aluminum pads. And certainly, some money bet on Leroidesanimaux Saturday was wagered without knowing he had a physical problem requiring the use of this kind of equipment. No number of public address announcements reaches as many bettors across the country as a note in the program does. This is, after all, the reason why this type of equipment must be noted at entry time.

If Leroidesanimaux needed aluminum pads to perform Saturday, he either should have been scratched by the stewards or allowed to race for purse money only. While it is true that neither option is ideal in a Breeders' Cup race, the protection of the betting public must be of paramount importance, whether it involves a Breeders' Cup race or a cheap claimer. Instead, doing neither showed an incredible disregard for the betting public.