Everything appeared to set up perfectly for Lost in the Fog. The undefeated colt, the brightest star entering the Breeders' Cup, recovered from a bumpy start, stalked the dueling leaders and ranged up on the outside to take over with a quarter-mile to go in the $1 million Sprint.
At that point, he sat poised on accomplishing the nearly unthinkable -- a 3-year-old colt who bypassed the Triple Crown races putting a hammerlock on horse of the year honors. With an eighth of a mile to go, Lost in the Fog took the lead and looked ready to pull away as he had done in all 10 of his prior starts.
Then, just like that, he faltered, exhausted, looking like he was ready to stop running completely as one horse after another passed by him to the finish line. Silver Train surged to win by a head over Taste of Paradise while the heaviest favorite of the day staggered home in seventh.
The race was so taxing, another horse, Wildcat Heir, collapsed in exhaustion at the finish line.
After 10 wins in 10 starts, Lost in the Fog lost.
Down in the film theater after the race, where the connections of the horses are interviewed, Lost in the Fog's trainer, Greg Gilchrist, didn't look particularly demoralized.
"One thing: I'll probably get a new rider next year because this kid finally got this horse beat," he said, referring to jockey Russell Baze. "Just kidding."
Gilchrist, 57, a third-generation horseman, has been training horses in northern California since the late 1970s and has won more than 1,300 races. He knew before Saturday the heartbreak of losing the Breeders' Cup Sprint with a great horse, having been defeated with the filly Soviet Problem in a photo finish in 1994. The owner of Lost in the Fog, 85-year-old Harry Aleo, had splurged on the modestly bred colt, spending $195,000 in a sale in Florida. He later turned down offers of $2 million for Lost in the Fog because he wanted the excitement in his life.
Lost in the Fog had raced at eight racetracks before the trip to New York, but in the paddock before the race, Gilchrist thought his horse looked on edge.
"I mean, he didn't get hot and washed out. He just was . . . he used up a lot of energy," the trainer said. "I think he acted like a worried horse, you know what I mean? When we got him out, he was fine. As far as being in the stall, he just seemed like he wasn't comfortable with the whole situation."
Lost in the Fog wasn't the only star to fall short Saturday. The champion filly Ashado needed only to finish second in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Distaff to become the career leading female money winner, but she was blown away in the stretch by 31-1 long shot Pleasant Home, who won by 91/4 lengths.
"This is bittersweet," Ashado's trainer, Todd Pletcher, said. "I would have liked to send her out with a win, but you could never be disappointed with the career that this filly has had."