Young Mandella can’t get lost in the fog in BC sprint

Oct 11, 2005 1:58 AM

Except for Lost in the Fog, the Breeders’ Cup Sprint this year could prove an oxymoron akin to an express checkout lane at Ralph’s—no speed.

In a contest usually resplendent with acceleration overload, the $1 million race at Belmont Park on Oct. 29 is shaping up as one with the shortest-priced favorite, that being the unbeaten, unchallenged and at least in one person’s skewered and blurred opinion, undeserving Lost in the Fog.

Gary Mandella, the 32-year-old trainer who won his first Grade I victory when stretch runner Taste of Paradise registered a 26-1 upset in the Vosburgh Stakes on Oct. 1, not only has great respect for Lost in the Fog, he fears the son of Lost Soldier will have no early challenges in the Sprint, get loose on the lead as is his wont and win the six-furlong dash as he pleases.

"I’m not sure we’ll have pace to run at," said Gary, whose father, 55-year-old Hall of Famer Richard, won the Grade II Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Santa Anita two hours after Gary captured the Vosburgh at Belmont 3,000 miles away. "I don’t know. Woke Up Dreaming retired right after the Vosburgh. Pomeroy is a horse that’s usually more forwardly placed than he was (in the Vosburgh). How he got jumbled around and didn’t end up as part of the pace or whether they just tried to take him back, I don’t know. Hopefully, Pomeroy’s people will change their tactics and he’ll be one of the horses to run with Lost in the Fog early."

If not, Mandella has a couple of aces in the hole.

"If Doug O’Neill’s horse (Estate Collection, claimed for $40,000 in his first start at Del Mar and unbeaten in three races, including the Grade III Kentucky Cup Sprint) becomes eligible for the race, he’ll have Pat Valenzuela on him and you can always count on P. Val sending a horse and you can always count on him trying to tackle a favorite. That would help."

That and the fact that Taste of Paradise has won over the Belmont surface.

"It’s a huge comfort," Mandella said of Taste of Paradise’s two-length Vosburgh win. "It

makes you feel you have a good chance, even though it’s against a horse that will be odds-on. Not only is Lost in the Fog undefeated, he’s had a race over the Belmont track and is coming off a gift race (a trumped up $100,000 stake at Bay Meadows). Basically, he got paid to gallop four weeks before the Breeders’ Cup. He didn’t have to run a jump and he’s really fresh, where my horse had to run his eyes out to prove he’s good enough to be entered in the Sprint.

"Everybody besides Lost in the Fog is in the same boat. They’re coming out of tough races and they ran really hard. Lost in the Fog is coming in with fresh legs, so he has a huge advantage."

Mandella can bet on one thing in the Sprint: Taste of Paradise won’t be 26-1 like he was in the Vosburgh.

"I didn’t notice he paid $55 until I got to the winners’ circle, to be honest with you," Mandella said. "I was pretty surprised, but I wouldn’t have put my owner through all the expense of flying him in if I didn’t think he had a fighting chance. But I shouldn’t have been surprised because he hardly ever gets any respect at the windows, for one reason or another. He didn’t at Belmont and he proved everybody wrong."

Oct. 1 and 2 was a grand weekend for Team Mandella and its alumni. Beau Greely and Dan Hendricks, who learned the training ropes from Richard, won the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup with Borrego and the Grade II Norfolk with Brother Derek.

"It was more important to my father that our horses won than his," Gary said. "He couldn’t have been any happier. Trust me, he was ecstatic."

The homestretch

Tyler Baze is attempting to regain control of his career and his life. The 22-year-old jockey joined Alcoholics Anonymous recently after failing a Breathalyzer test at Hoosier Park where he was scheduled to ride Southern Africa in the Indiana Derby on Oct. 1. Baze exceeded the limit of 0.5 and was suspended seven days by Hoosier Park stewards.

"His sponsor at AA was Tony Matos (agent for Victor Espinoza and Javier Santiago), who took him to his first two meetings," said Baze’s agent, Ivan Puhich. "Tyler was very responsive. His drinking hadn’t been a problem that I was aware of, but you know how fast these things escalate. He started off drinking a half a beer, then one, then two and the next thing you know he was drinking a six pack and his (small) body couldn’t handle it. But he’s very eager to change his life."

Baze endured a 62-race losing streak at Del Mar and underwent treatment for an eating disorder. He was bulimic, his weight dropped to about 100 pounds and he had to be put on a special diet to overcome the illness.

”¡ The Los Angeles Times, citing budget and space constraints, has pared another two inches from its ever-diminishing racing news by eliminating results charts showing where every horse finished and replacing them with a condensed version that is useless to serious horse players.

On the same page where the charts were jettisoned on this particular day was six inches of agate type with tennis results from the AIG Japan Open, the Porsche Grand Prix in Germany, the Open de Moselle in France and the Tashkent Open in—you guessed it—Uzbekistan. Among the winners of these trivial tournaments were players with tongue-twisting names rife with more consonants than vowels.

Racing fans should take an unyielding stand against this prejudicial injustice, but don’t bet on it. The nucleus of the game’s dwindling fan base consists mainly of the halt and the lame, many of whom would have their hands full merely releasing the grip on their walkers to protest.