A tour of Maryland’s Sagamore Farm

by Laurie Berglie.

Laurie Berglie is a frequent contributor to Retired Racehorse and also writes at her blog, The Sassy Grey.

Laurie Berglie was lucky enough to visit Sagamore Farm, a historic Thoroughbred property in Maryland. As a Maryland-bred myself, I’m pretty jealous of her. And after seeing these pictures of the beautiful farm, doubly so.

On April 28th, I was granted the privilege of touring Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Farm.  It was Friends and Family of Under Armour Day at Sagamore, so I scored admission through a friend of friend.

Sagamore Farm's training track

Maryland hills frame Sagamore's training track and barn. Photo: L. Berglie

You may know Kevin Plank as the founder and CEO of Under Armour, an athletic apparel company, but in 2007, he purchased Maryland’s historic Sagamore Farm with the hopes of rebuilding both the farm and Maryland’s racing future.  And he is well on his way to doing just that.

Here’s a little history lesson for you.  Sagamore, located in beautiful Glyndon, Maryland, was founded by Margaret Emerson Vanderbilt in 1925.  In 1933, she gave the farm to her son, Alfred Vanderbilt II, for his 21st birthday.  Alfred had a way with horses and pretty soon he was running a successful breeding and training operation which produced the great Native Dancer.  Native Dancer, aka “the Grey Ghost,” won 21 of his 22 races, including the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Sagamore Farm's Training Barn

The training barn at Sagamore. Photo: L. Berglie

When Vanderbilt sold the farm in 1986, it quickly fell into disrepair.  Enter Maryland native Kevin Plank.  Plank has already restored much of the farm in just five short years and has produced some champion racehorses including 2010’s $2 million Grade I Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner, Shared Account.  Plank has a long-term plan to continue refurbishing the farm, (next on the list is to give the indoor track a face-lift), and does not doubt for a second that Sagamore will produce a Triple Crown winner at some point.

After a breakfast of doughnuts and coffee, I watched a handful of horses take to the track for their morning work-outs.  My favorite was a grey filly, whose name I didn’t catch, who breezed by us at lightning speed.  I also enjoyed What’s the Record, a dark bay, 4 year old gelding, who couldn’t wait to get down to business.

The guided tour began at the indoor training track; then we were led over to “Native Dancer’s Barn.”  Interesting fact about Native Dancer – he loved children and small animals (especially puppies), but wasn’t a big fan of grown-ups!  (And really – who doesn’t love puppies!?).

Native Dancer with puppies

The Grey Ghost and his puppy friends. Photo: L. Berglie

We peered inside of the training barn just as Tiger Walk, potential Preakness contender, crossed our path.  We were led to “the graveyard” where 12 of Vanderbilt’s champions had been laid to rest.  Most racehorses are not buried whole with just their heads, hearts, and hooves placed in the ground – but not these 12.  According to our guide, their bodies lay intact, covered by their stable blanket, with a bag of their favorite treat (apples, carrots, peppermints, etc.) alongside.

Sagamore Farm's Under Armour racetrack

The very unique Tapeta surface, including remnants of Under Armour clothing! Photo: L. Berglie

Sagamore Farm training track sign

The sign says it all: history and technology working together! Photo: L. Berglie

Finally we made our way back to the track.  “In 2009, the ¾ mile training track…was rebuilt with a synthetic Tapeta track that incorporates pieces of recycled Under Armour performance material.”  Very cool!!

Sagamore is hoping for another great year out on the track.  Look for Monzon, Tiger Walk, Humble and Hungry, and filly, Millonreasonswhy, to be making headlines!

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “A tour of Maryland’s Sagamore Farm

  1. Matties Racing Stable

    Awesome place. Kudos to Kevin Plank.

  2. Ginger

    Great story and love the pics. Good job Kevin Plank.

  3. Ann Taylor

    Enjoyed my visit, thanks! Nice note about Native Dancer’s preference for kids and puppies. All best wishes to Kevin Plank & team — the last time I saw Sagamore it was in sad shape. Mr. Vanderbilt would be so pleased to see the renewal of his beloved farm. Awesome.

  4. Years ago when things were kinda rough in my personal life I would drive to Sagamore and park my car at the beginning of Belmont Rd. and walk Ed that road up to the entrance of the farm . As I saw the barns , horse and smelled the manure it would always give me peace inside. It made things seem not so bad. I am a horse lover but have not been lucky enough to own one. I admire their beauty ,strength and grace. So thank you Sagamore Farms for that little moment in time when I could walk along that road and feel that peace inside of me. I’ll always love Sagamore and I’m so happy that Mr.Plank has given you new life and meaning in the “racing world”in Maryland . Thank you Mr.Plank and Under Armor.

  5. Many thanks to Mr. Plank and his entire staff to bringing life back to Sagamore Farms.
    My parents took me there when I was a young girl, like all girls I loved horses and still do.
    I did own a horse at one time, and he gave me so much pleasure and fun. They are very therapeutic
    in so many ways, and they love all the attention you can give them. I was hoping to see a Sagamore horse
    run in the Preakness, but not this year. Keep breeding and your time will surely come. This is my 44th year
    attending the Preakness, I saw the Great One Secretariat win, and Affirmed, so each year as I head to New York to see another triple crown winner, I;m hoping this is the year. Orb seems to have the heritage of the Great ones, by reading a book called the X factor he is and has the bloodlines of some of the great ones, he carries that X chromosome so this could be the year.
    Thanks again for bringing all you have to racing in Maryland and look forward to seeing a Sagamore horse run real soon.

    Thanks again Tiger Walk and the entire Plank Staff