Plank hopes Shared Account's win invigorates state's horsemen

Under Armour owner has long-term plan for helping horse racing in Maryland

November 06, 2010|By Sandra McKee, The Baltimore Su

The day after his filly Shared Account, a 46-1 long shot, had come home the winner in the Breeders' Cup $2 million Filly & Mare Turf race, Kevin Plank of Sagamore Farms was happy to recall the moment and what he thinks it should mean to Maryland horseracing.

"Number one, in the owners' box, you want to act like you've been there before," he said. "But we were jumping up and down. There is nothing like winning a major race in an international field. There's nothing like proving you're the best in the world. The validation is one of the neatest things.

"A [46-to-1] shot won on the biggest stage, when no one gave her a chance and that horse is from the state of Maryland. It's time for a new voice to speak about [Maryand] racing. I think Shared Account speaks for the future of racing."

He said he is not looking for a fight with the long, established horsemen of Maryland. Instead, he wants to invigorate them.

"I'm not trying to declare war," he said. "I'm just very excited. People just need to believe."

Three years ago, Shared Account, sired by Pleasantly Perfect, stepped off a van onto the storied grounds of Sagamore Farms, the historic home of some of the greatest thoroughbreds in racing history, including Native Dancer. She was in the first group of yearlings bought by Plank, the founder of Under Armour and the farm's new owner.

Saturday, Plank said Shared Account has become the farm's "foundation" horse.

"We think she could give us our Triple Crown horse as a broodmare," he said.

In the same week Maryland horseracing appears to have taken a major blow with the Maryland Jockey Club saying it will cut Maryland racing to just a 40-day meet at Pimlico Race Course and close both the Laurel Park Race Course and the Bowie Training Center, Plank was talking about breeding a Triple Crown winner in Maryland.

"When we bought Sagamore, I told Tommy (farm manager Tom Mullikin) we're in this to win the Triple Crown," Plank said. "I believe winning begets winning. We went to Kentucky planning to win. It makes a great story, but this is not a three-year plan. Our plan is to build something great over 20 to 30 years. We don't know what the future holds, but we're going to go to the big races and hope good things come from it."

A year ago, Plank told The Baltimore Sun one of the reasons he bought Sagamore Farm was to help save horseracing, one of the state's oldest and once most-prestigious sports.

"It's not as cut-and-dry as needing slots or a new track," he said then. "We need great stories. We need winning. This (restoring Sagamore) could be the bolt of lightning that energizes racing in Maryland."

Saturday, he said the Breeders' Cup win "felt bigger than me." The Breeders' Cup victory, he said, is the kind of story Maryland needs.

In Louisville yesterday, Mullikin and the farm's on-sight trainer, Ignacio Correas, were shepherding another of the farm's horses, Humble and Hungry, a 2-year-old who ran in the Juvenile Turf. He didn't win, running what Mullikin called a decent race and finishing eighth in a 12-horse field.

He is one of 11 2-year-olds at the farm that now houses 40 horses, well up from the 13 of a year ago.

"Leadership is all about doing something," Plank said. "It's what I'm trying to do at Sagamore. We're not bragging about our farm. We want to let the horses do the talking. Yes, we have one of the most beautiful farms, but we want people to recognize our horses for the way they run. They should run with guts, intensity, grit and heart.

"Shared Account, you know, she's a nice, pleasant filly. She's a lady. She's elegant. And she ran with all the guts, intensity, grit and heart we want to see."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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