I first became aware of Lost in the Fog on a dreary January afternoon at Aqueduct. There to watch the Sunshine Millions simulcast, I was with a friend who told me about this amazing sprinter, the talk of the West Coast, coming off wins at Golden Gate and Turf Paradise. We were a little skeptical, but interested in seeing the colt in the Ocala Stud Dash that afternoon. After the race, we were believers.
I was lucky enough to see Lost in the Fog race four times during his remarkable three-year-old year: in the Bay Shore, the Riva Ridge, the King’s Bishop, and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. At Saratoga one morning for the workouts, my brother got a phone call, grabbed my arm, and said, “Let’s go!” We turned into sprinters ourselves, dashing through the clubhouse to the horse path that leads from the track to the paddock, just in time to see a sweaty Lost in the Fog coming off the track following a workout on a hot, humid Saratoga morning. We both felt that we were in the presence of a celebrity; we were in the right place at the right time.
A year later, it was disclosed that the colt was suffering from inoperable cancer; he had garnered so many fans across the country, racing as he did at nine tracks, and the public reacted mournfully and with admiration, knowing that “the Fog” had raced courageously several times while quite ill. In September of 2006, he was euthanized.
In February of 2005, shortly after that Sunshine Millions race, television producer John Corey, who grew up in Noe Valley in San Francisco, read about Lost in the Fog and realized that he, too, was in the right place at the right time: he’d walked past Harry Aleo’s Noe Valley office hundreds of times.
From that encounter ultimately came the documentary Lost in the Fog, which is playing this week at the Saratoga Film Forum, six showings beginning today and running through Sunday. Filmmaker John Corey contacted me in the comments section of my blog and agreed to answer to a few questions about the movie.
Brooklyn Backstretch: Are you a race fan?
John Corey: I wasn’t a hardcore racing fan. I went to Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows with my folks on occasion but it was more of a novelty than anything. I’m a fan now, though.
There are lots of really fast horses out there; why did Lost in the Fog stand out to you?
Lost in the Fog stood out to me initially because he was a local horse and you always want to cheer a local hero. It’s rare to have a horse of Lost in the Fog’s caliber come out of the Bay Area so he was a big hit in San Francisco. When I got further into the story, and got to know racing better, he stood out because of his consistency, not only race to race but within a race. He won ten races in a row at tracks around the country and inside a race, he was a machine. His second quarter was usually as fast or very close to his first quarter and horses looking for a break got buried by the pace. As Greg Gilchrist used to say, “He was iron.” Ultimately, though, he stood out because of the courage, especially at the end. He was a very sick horse but he kept running and even won the Aristides just a few months before he died. He was a pro to the end.
What do you see as Lost in the Fog’s legacy? Why is it important to tell his story?
Lost in the Fog’s legacy, aside from his great racing career, is the joy that he brought to Harry and to Greg Gilchrist, too. As the trainer, Greg was as invested as Harry was and it was the ride of a lifetime for both of them. For me, too. It’s also an important story because it’s the lighter side of racing. At a time when so many people are ready to be cynical and write off racing, it’s a portrait of good people who love horses and treat them with respect.
Describe your relationship with Harry Aleo.
Harry changed my life. Not only did he give me access to an incredible story, but he took me in as a friend. I would go in and hang out with him in his dusty office every other day, read the Form, shoot the breeze about his horses or his life in the neighborhood growing up. I wish I had met him earlier.
Did Aleo get to see the movie before he died?
Harry did get to see the movie but not in the way that I had hoped. I kept him in the loop, showing him cuts throughout the process but it took him a while to warm up to it. For a long time, it was just too raw but he finally came around and started to appreciate it. One of the most bittersweet moments was showing the film at CineVegas, a great up-and-coming festival, and winning the audience award for best documentary but not being able to show Harry the award. As I got off the plane in San Francisco, I had a message on my phone that Harry had died that day. I wanted to give him one more gift, to let him know that the reason that so many people responded to the film was due to his charisma.
Thursday, July 31: 5:30 and 8:00 PM
Friday, August 1: 5:30 and 8:00 PM
Saturday, August 2: 8:00 PM
Sunday, August 3: 7:00 PM
Corey will be on hand to answer questions at the Friday and Saturday screenings.