Updated on 09/17/2011 10:51PM

Pace figures don't flatter 'Fog'


NEW YORK - Last Sunday's Summit of Speed at Calder more than lived up to its name, featuring dominating performances by . It also ended up being a fascinating laboratory for students of time and pace, yielding results that might be more ambiguous than they first appear.

Woke Up Dreamin ($5.20), Madcap Escapade ($3), and Lost in the Fog ($2.10) were all daylight winners in races without much suspense. The more intriguing question before and after the races was how the undefeated and increasingly popular 3-year-old Lost in the Fog stacks up against his elders. He won't be meeting them until the Breeders' Cup Sprint, and was running only against undistinguished 3-year-olds at Calder, but the clock figured to provide some clues, with three graded stakes being run over the same distance and surface in the space of two hours.

There were two schools of thought as the day began, framing an argument that may persist until Breeders' Cup Day. The first was that Lost in the Fog is as good as his undefeated record, capable of handling any challenge and a deserving early favorite for the Sprint. Critics and contrarians, however, argued that he had yet to run particularly fast while beating up on inferior competition, and might find himself in deep water when he finally meets the best older sprinters.

Critics pointed to what happened on Belmont Stakes Day, when Woke Up Dreamin won the True North against older sprinters in 1:08.38 for six furlongs while Lost in the Fog won the Riva Ridge an hour later with a six-furlong split of 1:08.73 en route to a final time of 1:21.54. Woke Up Dreamin's better time earned him a Beyer Speed Figure of 111, four points better than Lost in the Fog's 107 - not an insurmountable difference, but hardly a sign that Lost in the Fog was yet deserving of being considered the nation's fastest sprinter.

This time, at Calder, both would be running six furlongs, and this time it wasn't even close. In the Smile Sprint Handicap, Woke Up Dreamin stalked the early pace and then drew off to win by three lengths in 1:09.80. A repeat of their respective Belmont Day efforts would now call for Lost in the Fog to win the Carry Back in a shade over 1:10 flat. Instead, he won by 7 1/4 lengths and stopped the timer in 1:09.30, exactly half a second faster than Woke Up Dreamin's winning time. In between their races, Madcap Escapade, a brilliant 4-year-old filly sprinter, had won a six-furlong race in 1:09.93, so Lost in the Fog had also run 0.63 second faster than another top-class elder.

By final time, Lost in the Fog had proven himself the fastest horse of any age at a summit of fast horses. This time the Beyers were a career-best 116 for Lost in the Fog, a 109 for Woke Up Dreamin, and a 107 for Madcap Escapade.

But what fun would it be if things were quite that simple?

The early fractions of the three races told a radically different story, and a far less flattering one for Lost in the Fog. In the Smile, Woke Up Dreamin was just a head off Don Six's brutal opening half-mile of 43.92. In the Azalea, Madcap Escapade had sprinted clear through a half in 44.64. In the Carry Back, however, Lost in the Fog was able to get loose with an opening half-mile of 45.46 - a full 1.5 seconds slower than Woke Up Dreamin's first half in the Smile. Lost in the Fog's opening half-mile in the Carry Back would have put him eight or nine lengths off the early lead in the Smile.

So who ran the better race - the 5-year-old who went 43.92 en route to a 1:09.80, or the 3-year-old who went 45.46 early and hung up a final time of 1:09.30? Pace handicappers would vote for Woke Up Dreamin, while those who believe only in final time side with Lost in the Fog.

Those who shun pace basically are saying that if you transposed the Carry Back onto the Smile, Lost in the Fog would have rallied from eight or nine lengths back and still run three lengths faster than Woke Up Dreamin. Would that really happen, though? Could Lost in the Fog, who is usually on the lead and has never been more than a length behind after a half-mile, really relax and drop back behind a fast pace, or would he be much closer? And if he were closer and ran faster earlier, how much slower would he run down the stretch?

Lost in the Fog is an exceptional racehorse, has been perfectly campaigned, and as a 3-year-old in July still has room to improve. But if the Sprint were next month, I would not be singling him in the Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick Six just yet.