The year was 2005 when my long-time racing friend called me in late September. I had no idea this call would lead to a memory that as I grow older and more forgetful I will tell repeatedly, and friends will pretend that they never heard the story. They will act like they are hearing it for the first time. When I repeat the story to my son Nick, who is as honest as the day is long, his eyes roll, and he will hit the STFU button and we will both laugh because as New Yorker’s at heart we speak that language lightheartedly.
I recall the horse that captured the headlines was our favorite, Lost in The Fog, which summarized my life until I married and my first and only son Nick came into this world instantly lifting that fog which kept me drifting aimlessly through life.
With 10 straight wins in Stakes Company leading up to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Lost in the Fog went off at the lowest odds of the day. He had won the hearts of horse racing fans across the country and stole the limelight away from the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the richest race in America.
At 11 years old, Nick had already been to the races a few times, somehow winning each time and now thinking that was normal. Of course with me placing the bets he couldn’t really lose but that’s just not the way he thinks. He always values Dad’s money as if it were his, something I don’t remember ever doing when I was a kid. When he wanted to bet a pick-3 I didn’t tell him forget about it, it’s hard enough to pick one winner let alone three.
The bet was made. In race 4 in the Juvenile, I picked my namesake, Stevie Wonderboy, who made a thunderous rally down the stretch to beat heavily favored First Samurai paying $11.20. Race 5 Nick went with the local horse Intercontinental in the Filly & Mare Turf who held off the 2-1 favorite Ouija Board and paid $32 to win. WOW, he was alive in the pick 3 with Lost in the Fog the only thing standing between him and the bit hit!
Everyone sitting all around us knew this 11-year- old boy was alive for a big payoff and as if he were their only grandchild opening Christmas presents for the first time their cameras were ready to freeze that moment of joy forever. You’d expect now to hear a story of tears and heartbreak because you probably know this was the end of Lost in the Fog’s winning streak, roughed up at the start and wide on the turns it was too much to overcome in a sprint.
Deflated, fans gathered around to console Nick and officially welcome him to the club. The club of big hits and just misses. There were no tears, Nick picked up the racing form and moved on to the next race brushing himself off the way a big leaguer does after being knocked to the ground by a high and tight 97 MPH fast ball.
The morning of our big trip, I remember watching Nick sleep curled up under the covers, a deep worriless 11-year-old little boy sleep. Like all 11-year-olds, waking up for school was as much fun as a visit to the dentist. I gently nudged him first, “Nick” I whispered, but he burrowed deeper under the covers so I gently pulled the covers down and said “Nick, there’s no school today.” “Hmm” he uttered. As his eyes began to open to those words I unveiled two tickets to the Breeder’s cup and said “Nick, there’s no school today, where going to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Instantly surprise and joy swept across his face the way it does for the first time looking out the window on a winter morning, snow falling, blanketing the world and experiencing your first snow day, in this case, it was his first Breeder’s Cup Day.