Greg Gilchrist is hoping for a miracle.
In the face of a bleak prognosis for his champion sprinter, Lost In The Fog, the 58-year-old trainer is putting up a good front and keeping the faith despite the fact that the 4-year-old son of Lost Soldier has been diagnosed with cancer.
Lost In The Fog arrived home at Golden Gate Fields on Aug. 20 after veterinarians at the University of California Davis clinic earlier in the week discovered a cancerous mass in his spleen and two tumors, one described as about the size of a football and located in an inoperable position under his spine. While skin cancers in horses are relatively common, this type is a longshot.
"In 30 years of practice, I’ve never had a malignant tumor in a thoroughbred race horse," said Dr. Rick Arthur, one of the world’s most respected veterinarians, who recently was named equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board.
Meanwhile, the patient is being pampered and treated with medication devised to shrink the tumors to an operable size. Doctors at UC Davis now say there is "a reasonable chance" of reducing the tumors to permit surgery or chemotherapy.
"Lost In The Fog is in his stall and very happy, and very glad to be home," Gilchrist said. "He’s in no discomfort at all."
Still, there seemed little chance of survival and even though Gilchrist expressed guarded optimism, he faces the future realistically. At some point, euthanasia is a possibility.
"It could be a week, two weeks, a month, a couple of months," Gilchrist said of Lost In The Fog’s remaining days. "We’ll just take it little by little as we go along. Right now, the horse is in no discomfort, but we would never take it too far."
Lost In The Fog won the first 10 races of his career in brilliant fashion, each by daylight margins under Russell Baze, before fading to seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Belmont Park last Oct. 29. He finished second in his comeback race at Golden Gate on April 20, then won the Grade III Aristides Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 3 before finishing ninth in the Smile Sprint on July 15 at Calder as the 11-10 favorite.
He won 11 races from 14 career starts from coast to coast and earned $978,099 for his octogenarian owner, Harry Aleo. Still, that didn’t gain Lost In The Fog the national esteem he deserved, even though he did win the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter of 2005. Until he lost the Breeders’ Cup, in racing terms, Lost In The Fog was a "freak."
He was fast, but he couldn’t outrun negative allegations.
"I think he got plenty of respect," Gilchrist said, "but I think that whole (lack of respect) perspective is derived from one guy, and that was Mike Watchmaker (East Coast-based Daily Racing Form handicapper, who provides weekly divisional ratings, but never ranked Lost In The Fog first among sprinters, even during his 10-race unbeaten streak, which included a victory by nearly five lengths in the Grade I King’s Bishop Stakes at storied Saratoga last August). I think he probably was the only man in America that never respected Lost In The Fog. If you want to print that, it’s all right with me, and if he wants to talk to me about it, he can come see me."
Whether Lost In The Fog was feeling vestiges of his ailment in last year’s Breeders’ Cup is open to conjecture. But Gilchrist is certain it was evident in the colt’s three races this year.
"There’s absolutely no doubt about it," Gilchrist said. "If you go back past this year, you’re only guessing, but I think there’s no doubt he was infected in his races this year.
"That’s the race that will stick out as his best one," Gilchrist said, referring to the Aristides. "Even though it might not have been the most dynamic race he ran, you had to know that three months ago the horse was carrying a lot of the cancer in him. There’s just not many horses that could do that, and maybe he was the only one that could with what he was facing."
In the meantime, Gilchrist maintains the vigil, and if the end comes for Lost In The Fog, he will be cremated and his ashes returned to Florida where he was bred.
"I’ll tell you the way I feel about it; he ain’t gone yet," Gilchrist said. "The word ”˜miracle’ is in the language for a reason. I would hope one would happen, although we’re not counting on it. But we’re going to give him every chance in the world.
"When his time comes, and it wouldn’t make any difference if it was now or a week from now or 10 years from now, he’ll go back to Florida and that’s where he’ll rest. If you do something like this, you do it the right way and give the horse all the respect in the world, because he certainly earned it."
Breeders’ Cup update: Save your Future Book money on Balance and Pussycat Doll for the Distaff.
"Balance is back in training at Santa Anita and we’re looking to return close to the end of the year," trainer David Hofmans said of the Santa Anita Oaks winner, who has recovered from surgery to remove chips in her left ankle three months ago. "We’re trying to make the Distaff with Pussycat Doll,"
Bob Baffert said of the multiple Grade I winner. "She’s back in training after being freshened but I won’t know for another 30 days whether she can make the Breeders’ Cup." Baffert said he had "no plans" for Hollywood Juvenile Championship winner E.Z. Warrior, who is nominated to the Grade I Champagne at one mile on Oct. 14 and the Grade II Norfolk on Oct. 8. On the New York-bred filly Behaving Badly, winner of the Rancho Bernardo Handicap: "I probably won’t run her again before the Breeders’ Cup (Sprint)."
”¡. With 14 fatalities at Del Mar this meet, industrious track superintendent Steve Wood is taking his share of criticism from horsemen. However, as one trainer pointed out, "he’s in a bad spot," because he really can’t start properly maintaining the track until the annual fair vacates the premises two weeks before racing starts.
”¡ Three days after saddling Lava Man to a historic win in the Pacific Classic, Doug O’Neill held fort at Santa Anita where he supervised workouts for 25 horses.
”¡ Victor Espinoza, runaway winner of the Del Mar riding title, will take a break before Oak Tree starts on Sept. 27 and spend time in Portland, Oregon, at his new restaurant, Parker House.
”¡ Good news, bad news. The good: David Cohen rode in all eight races at Del Mar on Aug. 23. The bad: He finished dead last in five.
”¡ I hear the terror alert has been elevated in West Hollywood to pink.