TOM BRADY IS stalking on the outside, prepared to make a triumphant surge. But through my binoculars, Lost in the Fog remains the front-runner in the 2005 Bay Area Athete of the Year competition as the race enters the stretch run.

A win in Saturday's season-ending Breeders' Cup would have clinched the title for the 3-year-old, but who can otherwise fault an amazing 10-month journey that helped resuscitate — at least locally — a dying sport?

Owner Harry Aleo and trainer Greg Gilchrist would have been horse-whipped for animal abuse had their developing colt gotten injured during their bold bid to make Lost in the Fog the first sprinter ever to capture Horse of the Year honors.

But four trips to New York and three to Florida paid off handsomely, both in terms of earnings (nearly $850,000) and shining the national spotlight on Russell Baze and Northern California racing in general.

There are those who say Lost in the Fog, by sidestepping the Triple Crown, never beat anybody all year. There's some truth to that.

Fittingly, you could say the same thing if he were to win Bay Area Athlete of the Year honors. After all, other than Brady, who did anything in 2005?

And I don't see Brady going 7-1 on the road this year.

Congratulations to Lost in the Fog. I've got a trophy for you, even if the Eclipse Awards people don't.

DATELINE: In front of Bonds.


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The baseball off-season has gotten off to a very quiet start in Seattle. Too quiet.

Rumor has it Ichiro has grown tired of the Mariners' losing ways and wants out, but Seattle-area reporters aren't publicizing it because they like dealing with the Japanese hitting star on a daily basis. They're hoping the All-Star changes his mind before his request for a trade becomes a demand.

Believe it: The Mariners are accepting offers right now for the standout leadoff hitter, and the price is only going to go up if/when Ichiro's true feelings about wanting out become public, prompting more teams to get Bill Bavasi on the phone.

That's why it's imperative the Giants act quickly. Yes, the Giants.

Ichiro is a perfect fit for the West Bay club for many reasons.

His style of play (speed and defense) suits the National League. He would fill the leadoff spot, allowing Randy Winn to bat third. He would play a critical defensive position at SBC Park (right field). And he would be a hero to the Bay Area's huge Asian population.

Oh, one more thing: He'd be the bridge to a new brand of Giants baseball in 2007, the club's first without Barry Bonds.

What about Moises Alou, you say? Well ...

He either spends the next six months getting acquainted with a first baseman's glove or he (along with prospects such as Merkin Valdez and Marcus Sanders) is part of the package that's shipped north.

DATELINE: The flag's other side. The best part of the Raiders' win over the Titans wasn't Jerry Porter's performance.

It wasn't the fact that, at 3-4, they're right back in the playoff race.

It wasn't even getting an opportunity to watch Warren Sapp be Warren Sapp, although that was a close second.

No, the most enjoyable aspect of Sunday's telecast was listening to the announcers bemoan the other team's critical penalties for a change.

But how many times did we have to hear: Every time the Titans get a penalty, it's negating a big play?

Gee, what terrible luck. Uh, you think maybe the penalty played a role in that big play?

Get a clue, guys.

DATELINE: Behind center. It's now crystal clear why the Buccaneers wanted Tim Rattay from the 49ers. For crying out loud, even Alex Smith is better than Chris Simms.

The question is: Given Tampa Bay's desperation for anyone with a pulse once Brian Griese got hurt, why couldn't the 49ers have extracted more from the Bucs?

All you're going to get with a sixth-round pick is the next Chris Simms.

Hmmm ... maybe it's time to hire a general manager. 

Would you like to see the Giants pursue Ichiro? E-mail your responses (with full name and hometown) to dave@angnewspapers.com.