There are a lot of similarities between Smarty Jones and Lost in the Fog, from their origins to their owners to their trainers to their jockeys.
Last year, Smarty Jones came from the City of Brotherly Love to win the Kentucky Derby. This year, Lost in the Fog started from the City by the Bay.
Their owners have long been eligible for Senior Citizen prices at the movies.
Smarty Jones gave trainer John Servis his first Derby win from his first Derby starter. Lost in the Fog would do the same for Greg Gilchrist, who, like Servis, paid his dues while never having to squint from the spotlight’s harsh glare.
Though he toiled long, hard and with only a smidgeon of acclaim, Stuart Elliott became an overnight sensation as the jockey for Smarty Jones. The rider of Lost in the Fog, Russell Baze, while already enshrined in racing’s Hall of Fame and on his way to becoming the game’s all-time career win leader, largely is recognized for recording most of his nearly 8,900 victories in the boondocks of the Bay Area, where patrons haven’t had a thoroughbred legend to applaud since Seabiscuit seven decades ago.
That could change this year. Lost in the Fog got his start at Golden Gate Fields in Albany, California, hard by San Francisco. Now all he has to do is become a legend.
He’s off to a good start. He is unbeaten in four races, winning by a combined margin of 31 Â½ lengths. He is the rage of racing.
Lost in the Fog could be the best 3-year-old not to run in the Derby this year. His owner, 85-year-old Harry Aleo, is so dismissive of the Run for the Roses he did not even spend the $600 to nominate his colt. Now it would cost him 10 times that amount. Reportedly, he has turned down offers in excess of $2 million for his horse, saying, "I’m in the racing business, not the selling business." But after four smashing victories, although none beyond seven furlongs, that could soon change. A San Francisco realtor who has run his business from the same office for almost 60 years, Aleo could ante up $6,000 for a late nomination.
"If you see him run in either the Santa Anita Derby or the Wood (Memorial at Aqueduct) and win, he would move on to the Kentucky Derby," Gilchrist told me. "If you don’t see him run in those races, there’s a good chance he may not be running anywhere, and if you see him run in a race that’s shorter (than the mile and an eighth of the Santa Anita Derby and the Wood) then probably we’re going to skip the Derby. We have until March 26 to supplement to the Derby.
"I knew going into the Swale Stakes (a seven-furlong race at Gulfstream Park which Lost in the Fog won by 4 3/4 lengths) that the only way he could run in the Derby was if he won convincingly, which he did. Now he would have to go in a two-turn race and win it convincingly, so he won half of the battle."
The purchase price for Lost in the Fog is listed as $48,000. But, with apologies to Bob Barker, Gilchrist says the price is not right.
"That figure is wrong," said Gilchrist, who will be 57 on April 24. "I bought Lost in the Fog a year ago at the Ocala sale. I bid $185,000 on the horse but the reserve was $199,000, so his people bought him back. Then we struck a deal about a week later and I bought the horse privately. It was a six-figure number but a much lower six-figure number (reportedly just under $200,000). I think $48,000 is what the people I bought the horse from purchased him for as a yearling."
Lost in the Fog, aptly named since he is a Florida-bred by Lost Soldier-Cloud Break, has earned $272,075, of which $90,000 is from the Grade II Swale. He could need more graded money to qualify for the Derby, a race in which neither Gilchrist nor Aleo has participated.
"I’ve been in a position to run in the Derby two or three times but each time we pretty much found a reason not to," Gilchrist said. "The last horse we considered running was Wild Wonder but I think a mile probably was his best distance so we didn’t go. I’m the only guy who has ever trained for Aleo and I’ve been with him since 1979. That’s a long time to be together in race-track years. Nobody holds a job that long.
"I’m going to sit down with Mr. Aleo and we’re going to explore our options, figure out what is best for the horse and go from there."
THE HOMESTRETCH: The injury to undefeated Declan’s Moon that will force him to miss the Kentucky Derby amplifies how tough it is not only to win the race, but to get there. It was a crushing blow to owners Mace and Samantha Siegel along with trainer Ron Ellis, who nevertheless handled the setback with customary class. The male 2-year-old champion of 2004 suffered a non-displaced chip of the left knee that will put him out of training for two months.
The 44-year-old Ellis said the injury probably occurred when Declan’s Moon won the Santa Catalina Stakes on a track sealed due to rain.
"It just shows you can do everything right and sometimes things still don’t work out," said Ellis, who refused to blame Santa Anita. "The track did everything it could in dealing with all the wet weather. It’s nobody’s fault. You only get one shot at the Derby, though, and this shows how difficult it is. Everything must go perfectly."
Meanwhile, Bobby Frankel has the Kentucky Derby winner on his hands in undefeated High Limit, who was geared down at the end of a four-length victory in the Louisiana Derby.