Stone-cold sprinters rarely capture the imagination of America’s horse betting populous. But combine a lightning-fast colt from San Francisco with a tough-nut war hero of the same geographic denomination and, well, the imagination runs wild.
The colt was Lost in the Fog. While San Franciscan to his core, his name didn’t quite fit because, no matter how thick the blanket, the fleet horse, who won his first 10 starts, could see himself clear of any atmospheric haze. The ninth of those wins came in the King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga in August 2005. We will make no mention of who ruled the Billboard charts back then, except to say that Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo were but toddlers.
Lost in the Fog was owner Harry Aleo’s only great horse. A World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the crotchety octogenarian was not accustomed to being interviewed by national television reporters before races. And prior to the King’s Bishop Stakes, it became apparent that he didn’t care to be. This set the stage for the best horse racing interview of all-time.
Bulging with annoyance
A white cowboy hat perched atop his head, Aleo was seated in the stands at the Graveyard of Champions when ESPN reporter Quint Kessenich asked him, “What is the current price tag on this horse?”
The rest of the interview went like so:
Aleo: “There is no price tag.”
Kessenich: “Why wouldn’t you sell?”
Kessenich : “Why wouldn’t you sell this horse?”
Aleo: “Why wouldn’t I sell? If I sold him, I wouldn’t have the horse, now would I?”
Kessenich: “What kind of impact has he had on your life?”
Aleo: “It’s exciting, thrilling. It’s one of the most important things ever in my life.”
Kessenich: “You played minor league baseball, you battled in World War II, the Battle of the Bulge. How does this compare to those lifetime m-moments?”
Aleo: “How am I gonna compare this great horse winning eight in a row with the Battle of the Goddamn Bulge? Forget it.”
Kessenich: “Thank you, Harry. Best of luck today.”
From Saratoga to Sergio
Note the “m-moments” in this transcript. By that point in the interview, Aleo had knocked Kessenich so far back on his heels that he was a stuttering ball of nerves. And when Aleo said “forget it,” Kessenich shrewdly decided it was time to throw in the towel.
Lost in the Fog proceeded to roll to victory in the King’s Bishop by nearly five lengths. He looked unbeatable heading into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint that year at Belmont (this year’s Breeders’ Cup gets underway Friday at Keeneland), but finished a stunning seventh. After a six-month layoff, he would come back and win one of his final three races before he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and laid to rest at Golden Gate Fields in 2006. Aleo would die two years later at the age of 88.
In the cliche-addled world of televised sports journalism, moments like the Aleo-Kessenich interview are manna from heaven. In this vein, when ESPN’s Sergio Dipp slowly and emphatically remarked that then-Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph was “having the time of his life” during a Monday Night Football game, he got torn to shreds. But I wanted to jump through the screen and hug him.
Moreover, I want Dipp to emcee each and every one of my kids’ birthday parties from here to eternity, and to officiate their weddings. You can’t put a price tag on that, because there is no price tag.