03/11/2005 12:00AM

Searching for a Derby dark horse

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Lost in the Fog's 4 3/4-length win in the Grade 2 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream put him into serious consideration for the Kentucky Derby.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A dark horse is a longshot or an unknown opponent, and at this point in the evaluation of contenders for the 2005 Kentucky Derby, there are two particular colts who fit this description.

Their promise has grown as they have matured and the distances they race have lengthened, but they have also gained from the loss of the early Kentucky Derby favorite, unbeaten Declan's Moon. Champion of his division last year and winner of the Santa Catalina in his seasonal debut on March 5, Declan's Moon is out of the Triple Crown due to a chip in his left knee.

Without him, dark horses such as Scipion, winner of the Risen Star at Fair Grounds on Feb. 12, and the unbeaten Lost in the Fog, who won the Swale at Gulfstream on March 5, are attracting more attention.

Of these two, Scipion entered his second season of competition as a better-known quantity. In contrast, Lost in the Fog only entered serious consideration for the Derby after his victory in the Swale, when he showed the willingness to rate comfortably and carried his speed seven furlongs.

If pedigree alone accounted for performance, Scipion could win the Ascot Gold Cup at 2 1/2 miles. A half-brother to Vindication, the champion 2-year-old of 2002, Scipion is as stoutly bred as any horse intended for racing in America. His sire, A.P. Indy, won the Belmont Stakes, the Breeders' Cup Classic, and was Horse of the Year in 1992. And the colt's broodmare sire is Strawberry Road, an Australian champion who also won Group 1 races in France and Germany, as well as placing second in the Breeders' Cup Turf and Washington D.C. International in the United States.

With so much stamina in his immediate forebears, along with Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Secretariat and other classic racers sprinkled through his pedigree, Scipion will not win or lose at Churchill Downs because of the distance but rather due to innate talent.

The pedigree of Lost in the Fog shows almost as many horses who could stay a distance. Nearly all of his forebears showed their best form at distances from eight to 10 furlongs, including the colt's sire, Lost Soldier; maternal grandsire, Dr. Carter, who won the Remsen and Gulfstream Park Handicap; and maternal granddam, Wistful, who won the Hempstead Handicap.

Like Scipion, Lost in the Fog has Secretariat as an ancestor. Secretariat has taken a dominant role in the internal layers of the pedigrees of high-class performers and stallions, with A.P. Indy, Storm Cat, Gone West, and others being out of Secretariat mares.

Secretariat is also the broodmare sire of Lost Soldier, who is out of the exceptional Secretariat mare Lady Winborne, the dam of six stakes winners.

Just about the only immediate relation of Lost in the Fog with a race record that didn't win at a reasonable distance is the colt's male-line grandsire, Danzig. Unbeaten in three starts, Danzig never ran farther than seven furlongs.

To a very significant degree, Danzig is the wild card in the makeup of Lost in the Fog. One of the very best stallions in the world, Danzig has the capacity to sire horses who race long distances, as well as more than a few well-suited to distances of five to seven furlongs.

Among the more classic offspring by Danzig are Marlboro Cup winner Chief's Crown, Belmont Stakes winner Danzig Connection, and Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Dance Smartly. Among the best sprinters by Danzig are champions Dayjur, Anabaa, Elnadim, and Danehill.

The great majority of Danzig's progeny were best at distances around a mile, and many of them were quite good, with nearly 200 of Danzig's racers having won stakes.

A strongly made, rather blocky colt, Lost in the Fog is built in the mold of the best Danzig milers. And the 3-year-old colt showed athleticism and precocity early in his preparation for the select sales of 2-year-olds in training with Greg and Karen Dodd, who bought Lost in the Fog as a yearling for $48,000.

At the 2004 OBS March sale, the Dodds bought back Lost in the Fog for $195,000 and resold him to trainer Greg Gilchrist, agent for Harry Aleo, not long thereafter. For his breeze in the Ocala sale, Lost in the Fog showed his potential when zipping a furlong in 10.60 seconds, with a stride length of 24.2 feet and a BreezeFig of 65, ranking him 20th in the sale.

His progress from that date has been steady and is dramatically accelerating, as the colt learns to rate and use his speed more efficiently.