Midday entered the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf race as the defending champion and heavy favorite. The classy European champion was thought to be pretty much invincible. Someone forgot to tell Shared Account.
In the first-ever Breeders’ Cup race held under the lights in the 26-year history of the event, Shared Account bravely battled Midday down the deep stretch capturing the $1,818,000 turf race by a neck. Bettors had dismissed the 4-year old chestnut filly at odds of 46-1.
Trainer Graham Motion, based at the Fair Hill Training Center, was having none of it.
“We did it before with a 27-1 shot so I wasn't too worried about that,” observed Motion, who won the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf with Better Talk Now at 26-1. “This race was our goal from the end of last year. For those who wrote her off after one disappointing race (Flower Bowl) where that day the turf was very soft, I don’t think that was fair. She is the kindest, nicest filly to be around. We’re all very fond of her.”
Breaking near the front of 11 horses under Edgar Prado, Shared Account raced in third behind pace-setting Plumania for most of the trip. Shared Account fought through a tight spot between horses in the stretch and was moving over to the hedge as Midday cruised up alongside. But, in the last eighth of a mile, Midday was unable to put away Motion’s filly. Shared Account battled back to snatch the lead just before the wire. She covered the 1 3/8-miles distance in 2:17.74 over a course rated firm.
The winner of the 2009 edition of the Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita, Midday came into the race off three consecutive Group I wins in England. Shared Account’s $94.00 win payoff is the second highest in Breeders’ Cup history behind only Arcangues’ $133.60 bombshell in the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The jockey who rode Barbaro to victory at the 2006 Kentucky Derby, Prado earned his fourth Breeders’ Cup victory.
“At the quarter pole the horse on the lead started backing up and luckily we got through on the hedge,” Prado explained. “Today she really wanted to win. Every time the other horse stuck a head in front (Shared Account) fought back at her. She was very game. I’m very happy for her.”
Sired by Pleasantly Perfect, Shared Account is owned by Kevin Plank, the founder and CEO of Under Armour, the Baltimore-based athletic apparel company that has been an amazing success story in itself. Plank got into racing in 2006 and bought the historic Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, Md. in 2007. That fall, bloodstock agent Bob Feld purchased Shared Account for Plank for $170,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale.
“The odds-makers called her a longshot, but she runs the way that defines our team both in business and at the farm,” Plank related. “Hats off to Tommy (farm manager Tom Mullikin). He pulls it together everyday with sacrifice and belief. We’re finding the right magic with Graham and with Edgar on her back. Finally it all wouldn’t have happened without the keen eye of our bloodstock agent Bob.”
Finally a winner
Motion has been a major player in the BC Filly & Mare Turf prior to saddling his winner on the first day of the 2010 Breeders Cup. Matter of fact, the Fair Hill trainer had never finished off the board. His former stable star Film Maker competed in three editions-- finishing runner-up in 2004, third the following year, and second again behind champion Ouija Board the last time the Breeders' Cup was at Churchill Downs in 2006.
Growing up in the village of Herringswell, England, Howard Graham Motion’s affinity for turf horses came to him naturally. Jo, his mother, rode as an amateur jockey and tended to Nickel Coin, a bay mare who staged a 40-1 upset win in the 108th Grand National at Aintree in 1951. Motion first came to the US as a 16-year-old when his father Michael became the American representative for Tattersalls sales company. Today, Jo and her son Andrew are proprietors of the Middleburg Tack Exchange in Virginia.
At age 21 Motion accepted an invitation to work at Ashwell Stable in the rolling hills of Chester County, Pa, the training farm of Jonathan Sheppard.
“My parents figured that one cold winter would put me off for life, but six years later I was still there,” laughed Motion. “I was pretty green when I got there. Jonathan let all of us get on with it, making decisions. You make your mistakes, but you do learn.”
In the fall of 1985 Motion “got on with it,” accompanying Flatterer when he ran in the Colonial Cup. The bay gelding ran away to win by eight lengths. With Motion as “traveling head lad,” Flatterer earned Eclipse Awards as America’s top steeplechase horse an unprecedented four consecutive years. He placed second in prominent races in England and France and is considered one of the greatest in steeplechase history.
After a decade of training at Maryland and Delaware tracks, Motion relocated to Fair Hill in 2001.
“It’s a wonderful environment to train horses,” Motion explained. “I appreciate the quality of life and get the opportunity to raise a family in the country.”
When Motion walked onto the dirt track at Churchill Downs to greet his Breeders’ Cup champion under those illuminating lights, the 46-year old trainer had tears in his eyes.
“It's very gratifying, no disrespect, to beat a filly of that quality and a filly that's coming back to try and win it for the second time,” said the 46-year old trainer. “I thought the Europeans looked really tough in here, not just her but the French filly (Plumania) as well. I just think it shows the class of our filly."
Plank knows a thing or two about building a winner. In 1996 the Maryland native launched Under Armour-- a moisture wicking, compression T-shirt business-- in the basement of his grandmother’s townhouse in Washington, D. C.
The stretchy, fast-drying garments fit like a glove keeping athletes cool in summer and warm in winter. Recognized as a major breakthrough, the technology enabled the company to carve out a healthy niche in a fiercely competitive sporting goods market selling to 20,000 stores worldwide.
“I was told ‘you’re crazy, you can’t compete with those huge companies (Nike, Reebok). They’ll chew you up,’” recalled Plank, 38. “Putting a team of people together to build something special, I believe that’s one of my true strengths.”
You get the feeling talking with Plank that he enjoys defying doubters. It’s why he purchased the sacred ground of Sagamore Farm (a Sagamore is an Indian chief) and carefully crafted a plan to resurrect the 530-acre farm in Glyndon, Md.
It was the site where Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, Jr. bred generations of champions for more than a half-century. Their brightest star was Native Dancer, winner of 21 of 22 races. Nicknamed the “The Gray Ghost,” his light gray coat turned snow-white when he stood here as a legendary stallion. Under a stand of sugar maple trees his grave is marked by a plain, small stone slab in an undistinguished equine cemetery.
With a careful eye and a measured respect for Sagamore’s storied history, Plank and his team of architects, land planners and farm staff recognized the real merit lies in its varied physical components which will forever link Sagamore to its glorious past. He plucked his high school buddy, Tom Mullikin, from a Kentucky farm, to manage the day-to-day operations of the racing and breeding outfit.
Two years ago Plank talked about winning at racing’s highest level.
“It’s not a two or three year plan to get to the Kentucky Derby,” explained the affable Plank. “I understand it’s going to be a long, tough climb and I don’t have all the answers. We’re talking maybe a 15 to 20 year plan. I like the idea that Tom and I are young and hungry. Besides, I don’t like to fail.
“Something I say at Under Armour is we’re smart enough to be naïve enough to not know what we can accomplish. In other words, don’t tell me what we can’t do.”
Shared Account has sped the program up. In the fall of 2007 the pretty filly stepped off a van onto Sagamore Farms, among the first group of yearlings bought by Plank. On that chilly early November evening in Louisville, she became the new Sagamore’s foundation horse.
“Everybody here at the farm had a piece of that victory,” Mullikin, 38, said. “You put in the hard work and with a little luck it comes back to you. It’s very gratifying.”
“We’re lucky and blessed to have a filly like this with a world-class trainer like Graham at Fair Hill as part of Sagamore and our stable,” added Plank.
“Our team stepped up when no one else believed and we’re holding a 46-1 ticket and we absolutely punched that ticket in more ways than just the betting window. It’s an only in America story.”
Galloping Out: the new amped-up racing program at Parx Racing was spotlighted in the Saturday BC races. Chamberlain Bridge, who won the Turf Monster on Labor Day, triumphed in the BC Turf Sprint, while Pennsylvania Derby winner Morning Line just missed scoring in the BC Dirt Mile.
Delaware Park stabled Eldaafer pulled off another upset in the $500,000 BC Marathon in the 1 3/8- mile race for trainer Diane Alvarado. It was the first Breeders Cup horse Alvado, 32, saddled.
Wilmington owner Rick Porter confirmed on Nov. 11 that Larry Jones will train at least five of his horses when Jones heads to Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., in late November. One of those horses is the promising 2-year old Commander. The Jones-Porter combination took off in 2007 with Grade I winner Hard Spun, who was runner-up in the Kentucky Derby and BC Classic. Anthony Dutrow will continue to condition horses for Porter in 2011.
George Strawbridge's 2008 champion grass mare Forever Together has retired to Stone Farm in Paris, Kentucky and will be bred to Smart Strike in 2011. The farm belongs to Arthur Hancock III. The 6-year-old mare arrived after her sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, a race Forever Together won in 2008 and finished third in 2009. By Belong to Me, she leaves the racetrack with nine victories from 26 starts, five second-place finishes, and seven thirds. Trained by Chester County's Jonathan Sheppard, Forever Together earned $2,957,639.