LOUISVILLE, KY. — At a time when Maryland racing may have most needed a boost, one of its own, Kevin Plank of Sagamore Farms, gave it just that at the Breeders' Cup here Friday.
Plank, the multi-millionaire founder and owner of Under Armour, also owned a long shot in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf. That is the four-year-old filly, Shared Account, who did the near impossible before an opening day Breeders' Cup crowd of 41,614 at historic Churchill Downs.
She won the race, at 46-1 odds, paying $94 to win, second-largest in the event's 27-year history, and stunning a field that had all but overlooked her.
"I'm speechless," said trainer Graham Motion. "I'm very emotional. I love this filly. I'm not surprised she won. I'm really surprised she was overlooked (by the bettors)."
The race was incredible in more than just a 46-1 winner. All four paying places needed to be determined by a photo, and when that was read, it showed that overwhelming favorite Midday, last year's winner, was a narrowly beaten.
Recently, it became clear that Laurel Park is likely to close operations in the near future. Pimlico is also likely to scale down operations, mostly built around the Preakness. Maryland racing, late to the table in the slot machine pursuit and soon surrounded by states with horse racing supplemented by slot winnings, has a racing history that made its decline as a major player frustrating to horsemen in the state.
Into that breach rode the young Plank, who purchased historic Sagamore Farms in 2007. At the time, he said that the goal was to win a Triple Crown, not a totally unrealistic goal consideringt the likes of Native Dancer was bred and raced by Alfred Vanderbilt from Sagamore.
Plank also said at the time of purchase that Maryland racing needed "great stories," and Friday was his second major contribution, the first being his purchase of Sagamore.
"This all began in the infield of the Preakness, many years ago," Plank said Friday. "Then it evolved to my love for the state of Maryland. And then, of course, it's just a passion for horses and racing."
Plank said that Shared Account, who entered with $560,360 in winnings and a 5-4-1 record in 14 lifetime starts, "is classy and runs the way that defines our farm."
Midday's jockey, Thomas Queally, said, "The trip didn't beat her. The filly that finished first did."
Plank was eager to make sure his state shared in this special moment.
"You look at the state of racing in Maryland," he said, "and I decided someone should probably do something about it. Frankly, I fit the profile."