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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Fog’s owner lives on tense cloud nine

Richard Rosenblatt Associated Press

NEW YORK – The owner is a nervous wreck before every race. The trainer has discovered that a little sarcasm works well in calming him.

“You really think he’s going to run any good?” Harry Aleo asks Greg Gilchrist each time Lost in the Fog is loaded into the starting gate.

“Nah, I don’t think so,” Gilchrist replies, pausing briefly for effect, then adding, “I wouldn’t drag him over here if I didn’t think he’d run good.”

Lost in the Fog is doing that, all right. He’s been perfectly brilliant, in fact, winning all 10 of his career starts with surprising ease.

No pure sprinter has been voted an Eclipse Award for top 3-year-old colt or for Horse of the Year, but that could change if Lost in the Fog wins Saturday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Belmont Park.

On the verge of so much racing history, the 85-year-old Aleo is more fidgety than usual.

“It’s been unbelievable, mind-boggling. I’m nervous right now,” Aleo said in a phone interview from his San Francisco real estate and insurance firm. “How can you not be? I’ve had horses for many years trying to get a good one, and this is one in a million.”

And to think, a man who likes to name his horses using Bay Area references nearly allowed the already named Lost in the Fog to get away. At a sale in Ocala, Fla., last year, a $199,000 reserve wasn’t met when bidding stalled after an offer of $195,000 by Gilchrist on Aleo’s behalf.

“He kept elbowing me to go higher, but I couldn’t,” Gilchrist recalled on a windy and rainy Tuesday morning at Belmont as an inquisitive Lost in the Fog peered out of his stall.

Gilchrist said he knew the colt could run, and a few weeks later Aleo bought him privately for a reported $140,000.

Ten dominating wins later at eight different tracks, from Bay Meadows to Saratoga to Turf Paradise, Aleo has turned down offers from $8 million to $12 million to sell the horse of his dreams. “He doesn’t need the money,” Gilchrist said.

“You just can’t buy what’s happening,” Aleo said.

Gilchrist, 57, has a different take: “If I owned him, I wouldn’t own him. I’d be on the beach in Barbados.”

Aleo has been a successful businessman in the Bay Area since starting Twin Peaks Properties in 1947 after serving in World War II. He joined the Army after an arm injury ended a brief minor league career.

His interest in racing began in 1979 when a son-in-law gave him a book titled, “How to Make Money When Your Horse Loses.” He met Gilchrist and the two have been together since.

The trainer is a third-generation horseman, the son of “Boots” Gilchrist. Aleo and Gilchrist previously sent out one Breeders’ Cup starter – finishing second by a nose with Soviet Problem in the 1994 Sprint.

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