08/24/2005 11:00PM

Six try to challenge Lost in the Fog

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Horsemen from coast to coast have heaped praise upon throughout his 3-year-old campaign. But trainer Nick Zito paid the undefeated Lost in the Fog the ultimate compliment earlier this week without ever saying a word. Zito opted to enter Bellamy Road in 1 1/4-mile Travers rather than face Lost in the Fog in the seven-furlong King's Bishop Stakes as he had originally intended.

The presence of Lost in the Fog makes the Grade 1, $250,000 King's Bishop the focal point of the undercard on Saturday's 12-race Travers day program at Saratoga.

Greg Gilchrist, who trains Lost in the Fog for owner Harry Aleo, said "I'm sure they had their reasons" for not running Bellamy Road in the King's Bishop, "but maybe not entering is the best form of flattery.

"Naturally as a trainer you always like to find the easiest spots for your horse, said Gilchrist, "and obviously the King's Bishop becomes an easier race with Bellamy Road out, although in the back of my mind

I guess I'm a little disappointed he's not running, just to see how things might have turned out."

While Lost in the Fog, a son of Lost Soldier, has earned the respect of horsemen for his blazing speed and the ease in which he has won his first eight starts, there are still doubters who have raised questions about who he has beaten during his streak. And with Bellamy Road out of the King's Bishop, Gilchrist feels he is facing a no-win situation again.

"Nothing less than a win will be good, and even a win Saturday might not be good enough for some," said Gilchrist. "Unfortunately I cannot go around the barn, pull guys over, and tell them they have to run against our horse.

"But while the talk for the past couple of weeks has been about a Bellamy Road-Lost in the Fog match race, there are some pretty fair horses in this field, and just as with all his previous starts, I'm not going to underestimate the opposition. I respect them all, and we'll be approaching the race just as seriously as if Bellamy Road was in there."

Gilchrist caused a stir last week by telling the media he was training and had worked Lost in the Fog in a bar shoe to protect a slightly bruised foot. But Gilchrist said the foot and bar shoe is a non-issue.

"I wish I never even brought it up, because the foot is no cause for concern," said Gilchrist, who said Lost in the Fog would not be equipped with a bar shoe for the race.

Regular rider Russell Baze will take his regular seat aboard Lost in the Fog, who will carry high weight of 123 pounds under the allowance conditions of the King's Bishop.

Despite the imposing presence of Lost in the Fog, the King's Bishop drew six other 3-year-olds: Fusaichi Rock Star, Social Probation, The Daddy, Santana Strings, Storm Surge, and Better Than Bonds.

Santana Strings may have the best chance of springing what would be considered a major upset. A son of Wheaton, he is coming off two straight stakes wins, including a

victory at Saratoga in the Grade 2 Amsterdam, since receiving an unplanned vacation because of the quarantine imposed on trainer Steve Asmussen's barn this spring at Churchill Downs.

"The time off was probably a good thing, since he'd run hard all winter," said Asmussen. "Right now our horse is faster than he's ever been, he's proven he loves the track, and perhaps with the bar shoe Lost in the Fog may not be at the very top of his game.

"I'm not suggesting we can beat the favorite," said Asmussen, "but it's a Grade 1, and if everything went our way and didn't go his, you never know what might happen."