The trainer, like the horses, lives in a kind of fantasy land at Sagamore. He doesn't have to worry about jostling for workout times at Laurel or Pimlico. He has his own track, a short walk from the farm's tranquil barns, and he can work his athletes whenever he pleases.
"You see what we have here," he says. "We have privilege, everything we need. So we have no excuses. I would say it's almost unique."
Talking about the farm a few minutes later, Plank describes it as a palette. "I don't know that the perfect model for racing has been built yet," he says. "I think that's what we're tweaking."
He then compares the farm to an improving athletic team that has to learn how to win in the playoffs. "We have denied nothing to Tiger Walk," he says of the Kentucky-bred colt, whom he purchased as a yearling. "There's no reason why he couldn't be our next Preakness champion."
There's a visitor on hand who's uniquely suited to judge Plank's progress. Alfred G. Vanderbilt III is 62 and hasn't set foot on the farm since he was teenager. But he remembers vividly his father's words about the sweet water at Sagamore, which fed the grass that fed the horses. "I don't know that there are any stronger or more beautiful horses than those at Sagamore," Vanderbilt says.
He marvels at Plank's efforts to restore his father's vision. Asked if he might travel from his New York home to attend the Preakness, Vanderbilt says, "If they have a horse in, maybe."
The names of Plank's horses all feature some Under Armour connection, and Tiger Walk is no different. Auburn University is a client of the company, and on football Saturdays, Auburn fans line the street to watch their team walk into the home stadium. The ritual is know as the Tiger Walk. The name also plays off those of the colt's parents, Tale of the Cat and Majestic Trail.
Mullikin, Plank's buddy since high school, has developed a whole arsenal of metaphors to capture Tiger Walk's odds of winning the big race. "We're not quite Kentucky or Duke," he says, choosing an NCAA tournament comparison. "But Lehigh took down Duke, and we're like a Lehigh."
A few weeks later, with the Preakness looming, a worker, at the farm to do some resurfacing, asks Mullikin about the Preakness entry. "Maybe lightning will strike," the farm manager offers. "He'll be long odds, so he's worth a [betting] ticket."
Mullikin is asked about the colt's personality: Is Tiger Walk one of those equine reprobates he likes to call knuckleheads?
"No," says Plank's right-hand horseman. "But, I mean, he's not the most elegant. He'll be a great representative for Baltimore. He's not Dom Perignon; he's more Natty Boh."