Sagamore Racing: Scoring Across The Board At Saratoga
Scott Wykoff – August 7, 2019
With Saratoga considered the premier summer thoroughbred racing destination in the nation, Baltimore County-based Sagamore Racing has made it a priority to grow its stable at the historic Upstate New York racetrack over the last few years in its pursuit of racing excellence.
And over the last several weeks, trainer Stan Hough’s stable has been attracting all sorts of attention with a string of runners that have been turning heads along the rail and backstretch at racing’s quintessential summer venue.
“It’s a special place,” said Sagamore Racing President Hunter Rankin. “They say it’s the summer place to be and that’s exactly what it is.”
That’s one of the many reasons why Sagamore Racing has such a significant presence at Saratoga this summer.
“For us it’s the pinnacle,” Rankin said.
Sagamore Racing is making a real mark this summer at racing’s summer place to be. Sagamore runners have two wins and four in-the-money finishes in nine starts so far this summer for Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Farm-based racing team.
“It’s been a lot of fun and obviously we want to compete here,” Rankin said as he looked out over the iconic racing oval from Barn 32 along the Saratoga backside. “It’s where everybody brings their best horses to showcase them, especially the 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds, too.”
Coming out of retirement as a trainer a few years ago to oversee the Sagamore Racing stable, Hough is back in the same barn on the backside at Saratoga that he used to call home back in the day
“That part is pretty neat,” says Rankin, talking about his longtime racing mentor’s return to Barn 32 this summer at the main track at Saratoga. “He called me right before the meet and said they’re going to give me the old barn back, which he was really excited about. So it’s nostalgic for him to do this again.”
He Hate Me, a dark bay 4-year-old gelding, scored an impressive win early in the meet and is being pointed now toward the Tale of the Cat Stakes on Aug. 9 at Saratoga.
“He came into this meet really training well,” Rankin said during morning training at Saratoga. “He ran his best race that he has ever run here a few weeks ago. He’s doing well and hopefully he continues.”
In addition to finishing out of the money only twice in his 10 career starts, the Sagamore sprinter has also attracted a lot of attention as he’s named for former XFL player Rod Smart, who wore “He Hate Me” on his jersey during his time in the short-lived pro football league.
“He’s been a lot of fun for us, you know the name and everything, so he’s got a lot of attention in that way too,” says Rankin.
All eyes were focused on Sagamore Racing for the first big stakes race of the summer meet at Saratoga as Global Campaign was one of the favorites in the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes. Despite a number of setbacks including injuries and training layoffs leading up to the race, the impressive dark bay 3-year-old scored a third place finish on racing’s biggest stage that day after an impressive win in the Peter Pan Stakes in early May at Belmont Park.
“We missed some training with him between the Peter Pan and the Jim Dandy which I hope is the reason he was a little flat coming down the lane in the Jim Dandy,” adds Rankin. “He just didn’t kick like he normally does.”
But the Kentucky native who has been in charge of Kevin Plank’s racing operation at historic Sagamore Farm for four years now says Global Campaign came out of the Jim Dandy in great condition.
“We hope he just needed the race. We think that’s the case and we’ll see how he trains.”
To that end, he says they may take a shot with him at the end of the month in the Travers, considered the Mid-Summer Derby and the premier race of the summer at Saratoga.
Sagamore Racing’s Scars Are Cool has been the stable’s other Saratoga winner so far this summer as the 3-year-old Malibu Moon colt beat the field in a 1 1/8 mile allowance early in the meet.
Recruiting Ready, The Rock Says, Knockout Punch, Polished Copper and Where Paradise Lay are among more than a dozen Sagamore Racing runners that are stabled this summer at The Spa.
So what makes Saratoga so special and why is it so important for Kevin Plank’s racing operation to be succeeding here like it is?
“It’s a town that was built around a racetrack and a little college,” Rankin said. “Everybody remembers the first time they came to Saratoga. Especially if you love racing. You remember the town, you remember the (main track), you remember the Oklahoma, the training track. All the people are here. It’s just different. You feel it when you’re here.”
And Rankin said, “For all those reasons and the fact that people have been bringing their horses here for more than 150 years, it has a mystique about it that has developed over time that everybody wants to win here so when you do that makes it that much more special.”