To an outsider, all appears normal around Barn 31 on the backstretch of Golden Gate Fields. A little after 5 each morning, the shedrow bursts into activity, with horses coming and going, to and from the racetrack for their daily exercise regime.
Unfortunately, the activity level is misleading.
For owner Harry Aleo, trainer Greg Gilchrist and Gilchrist’s staff, these are trying times as they cope with last week’s discovery that Lost in the Fog has three cancerous tumors, one of which is inoperable, and the colt’s long-term prognosis appears bleak.
This is a colt with a big personality, a fiesty stud who has been knownto take a nip or two at an unsuspecting onlooker. It rivals his accomplishments on the racetrack, which saw Lost in the Fog become the most popular horse in the country by winning 10 races in a row on his way to an Eclipse Award as the country’s best sprinter.
“I have more respect for this horse than I have for 75 percent of the people I deal with on a daily basis,’’ Gilchrist said during the press conference announcing that Lost in the Fog had inoperable cancer.
Throughout Lost in the Fog’s award-winning career, Aleo and Gilchrist both did their best to keep an even-tempered perspective through one victory after another.
All along the way, Aleo followed his champion in a constant state of nervous, always worrying about the fragile nature of his champion’s legs. He’d remind anyone within earshot that a horse is always “one step away from being nothing.”
Gilchrist, meanwhile, would caution overly enthusiastic onlookers by quoting a colleague, trainer Nick Zito, as saying, “With great expectations come great disappointment.”
While the two men who have worked together for almost 30 years — and did their best to stay prepared for the disappointment of defeat — nothing prepared them for last week’s news of cancer.
And neither has given up yet, deciding to do everything possible for Lost in the Fog to beat the cancer, treating the colt with a steroid that hopefully will shrink the tumors and build up his immune system.
Since last week’s diagnosis, Lost in the Fog has returned to his stall in Barn 31, and is being pampered in every way a horse can be pampered. The colt is eating well, and still on occasion shows off his fiesty personality.
“He’s not jumping through hoops or anything, but he’s doing okay,” said Gilchrist.
One unexpected side to the story has been the overwhelming outpouring of affection for the colt.
Bouquet after bouquet of flowers have arrived at Barn 31, where Lost in the Fog currently resides with few outward signs of his ailment. One fan even sent a bouquet of carrots.
Throughout the week, Aleo has received letter after letter of support at his real estate office, and Golden Gate Fields has been fielding an endless stream of phone calls from Lost in the Fog fans all over the world sharing their sympathy, even offering possible solutions.
An Irish gentleman asked for the barn’s phone number because his brother is working on a treatment that has helped animals with cancer. A lady from New Jersey sent an article she’d seen in the Sunday New York Post about a doctor who is treating animals with cancer, along with a letter saying how much the colt has meant to her and her husband.
It’s hard to imagine how much Lost in the Fog means to Aleo, Gilchrist and those who work in Barn 31.
Tim Liotta hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).