When you think Under Armour, you think sportswear, sportsgear, world-class athletes, and horse racing.
Wait – you mean you don’t think about horse racing? Many people don’t know that Kevin Plank, CEO and Founder of Under Armour, was born and raised in Maryland and has built his athletic apparel industry rooted in Maryland culture.
In keeping with the tradition of supporting locally and working with world-class athletes, Kevin bought the historical Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, MD in 2007. The farm has a deep history rooted in thoroughbred racing starting in 1925 that’s been tied to the inventor of Bromo-Seltzer (Baltimoreans will understand the significance), the Vanderbilts, and even the Queen of England.
Kevin purchased the historic property to restore it to its glory with a long-term plan for major restoration but today it’s still incredibly beautiful.
This week, I was invited as part of a VIP group on behalf of America’s Best Racing and Sagamore Racing to tour the farm and learn a little more about the business of training these race horses. And I need all the knowledge I can get. On May 20th, I’ll be headed to Pimlico Race Course, home to Preakness – the second of the Triple Crown Races, for the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.
Attending the races is about fun, fashion, and betting (and hopefully winning) – all things I need some education on. But more importantly, it’s about the horses.
At Sagamore Farm, we got some insight as to what it takes to train world-class thoroughbreds.
Let’s start with how much work is involved. We met Jocelyn Brooks, Chief of Staff at Sagamore Farm, who makes it look like it’s all pretty horses and fancy boots. But the reality is a lot of long hours and long days. Start time is often 4am and the days last 14-16 hours. You really have to love what you do.
We spent a good deal of time in the horse barn where I asked a million questions.
Are they friendly? Do they have different personalities?
Oh yes. “Feel Proud,” for example, likes to bite. I kind of kept my distance.
“Future Show,” on the other hand, is known to be friendly. She even stuck her head out just as someone was snapping this photo for me.
Is the hay their standing on different than the hay they’re eating?
Somehow, they know, I was told. I would imagine it’s something like being offered a glass of White Zinfindel and Chardonnay. They’re both wines but you wouldn’t catch me near a glass of White Zinfindel!
What’s that guy doing to that horse down there?
True to the Under Armour spirit, they treat their horses like the world-class athletes that they are. They get their muscles rubbed down, iced up, and they stand on gentle vibrator plates like the one above. It helps loosen their joints and keep them limber.
Why are there so many cats in the barn?
It’s always been a tradition, dating back to 1925, to have black cats living on the farm.
These barn cats were definitely not shy and made sure that we knew this was their farm and they let the horses live there with them.
The cats looked like they maintain a pretty healthy diet of mice and birds so it’s a win-win for the barn (not so much for the mice and birds).
The most fascinating part of the event came when we headed over to the track and I started in with the questions again.
What is the track made of?
I guess I just expected it to be dirt but this almost looked like soil. Almost.
As the horses came racing by, you could hear an almost quiet gallop.
The track actually consists of something called the Tapeta All-Weather surface. It’s a dirt-like substance that’s been blended with lycra, of all things, to give the track a more cushioned feel. As it rains, like it did when we were there, the track gets firmer and gives the horse a different ride.
And yes, I actually had a chance to touch it. It feels very much like the kinetic sand that kids play with these days. The difference is that this “sand” is enhanced with 18 tractor-trailer loads of shredded, recycled Under Armour shirts.
From our brief walking tour, it felt like a beautiful piece of Maryland horse country but when we visited the old horse barn on the property, that’s when you could feel the history come to life.
From the outside, the barn doesn’t look like anything significant but if you look to on the left side of the exterior, you’ll start to see the the barn curves inward.
In fact, the barn is circular in nature where the inside consists of a indoor 1/4 mile dirt track, one of the few of its kind. But a quick look at the horse stables will show you why this barn is no longer used.
On the outside of the barn, you’ll find very dark, enclosed stalls. Today, the modern horse barn has everything it needs to keep its athletes happy.
Our stay at Sagamore Farm was short but it gave me several opportunities to prepare myself for Race Day. I learned more about the age of the horses that are racing, their physical conditioning, their car, and most importantly, I got a glimpse at horse fashion!
Even in the rain and mud, many of these style bloggers brought their ‘A’ game. I have my hat and dress ready and I’m ready to head to the races. Stay tuned for more!