Secretariat

Horse Racing Movies for the Holidays

Rather than rank the best or my favorite racing movies, because of their diversity let’s just break them down in categories to cater to people’s tastes and what they are looking for, whether it’s movies about racing in general, a famous horse, or betting. You have gut-wrenching, heartwarming, comedic, and gritty films and it’s difficult lumping them together and ranking them. So, whatever your pleasure, here are the movies I recommend, although many are hard to find. ~ Steve Haskin

Horse Racing Movies for the Holidays

By Steve Haskin

 

If you thought it was tough finding Cabbage Patch Kids and Tickle Me Elmo dolls back in the ‘80s and ‘90s good luck trying to find horse racing movies. Once in the proverbial blue moon they’ll show up on TCM or some offbeat channel, so you will have to search Amazon and hope you find what you’re looking for.

With the holidays coming up, if you know a racing fan you want to surprise with a good racing movie here is a list you can choose from, depending on where their interest lies. Let’s start with the broadest category of them all.

ENTERTAINING:

50-1 – This should go in the horse bio category, but I am taking it one step farther because of its characters and pure entertainment value. I have been critical of most modern racing movies, and this film did take a few liberties. But having lived through and chronicled the story of Mine That Bird, I feel this film captured the amazing journey of the second-biggest longshot to ever win the Kentucky Derby at the time, and did it in an entertaining manner, combining actual footage of the Derby with recreations, and using a horse who looked exactly like Mine That Bird. Many times, you can’t tell the actual footage from the footage shot for the movie. Although they used Bob Baffert as the heavy or the foil, which was just a bit over the top, the actor who played Baffert had his mannerisms (and his hair) down pat. And the colt’s jockey, Calvin Borel, who played himself, was a pure joy. The biggest deviation from the truth was using a female exercise rider to accompany Chip Woolley on his trek across the country instead of Charlie Figueroa, who was in reality the exercise rider and his travel companion. But it actually worked, and I enjoyed the platonic and at times hostile relationship between the two, which helped make the journey more interesting and bring out Woolley’s character. This film should have received bigger exposure, but it is well worth looking for and once in a while can be found on TV. While this movie would rank no higher than No. 3 or 4 in the horse bio category behind two or three extremely well-made and beautifully filmed movies I always watch it when it’s on TV and it’s just as enjoyable every time.

KENTUCKY — This is the granddaddy of all horse racing movies, the formula that was used in many of the films that followed. It even resembles the story of Secretariat — girl (played here by Loretta Young) returns home to save the family farm and wins the Kentucky Derby. Centered around a longstanding family feud, the opening scenes during the Civil War are gut-wrenching. But that is followed by magnificent color footage of greats such as Man o’War, Gallant Fox, Fair Play and other top stallions at stud that look as if they were shot today. It brought those horses to life. One of the great racing characters of any racing film was portrayed by Walter Brennan, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as a crotchety old hardboot, even though, in reality, he was only in his 30s. One of the classic scenes was when the manager of the rival farm was trying to hide their top prospect from Brennan, who was there to collect on a wager, in which he could pick out any 2-year-old he wanted. We see a black groom dancing down the shed row singing, “Postman worked in :48, goin’ to the races, goin’ to the races.” Brennan dancing alongside him, goes, “Where’s he at? Where’s he at?” And the groom sings back, “Over in the tack shed, over in the tack shed.” You’ll have to get past the black stereotypes and the equine star Bluegrass’ improbable and implausible path to the Derby, but have to remember the film was made in 1938 when the entertainment value usually overshadowed reality and political correctness. All in all, this was great fun and includes footage of Lawrin winning the Kentucky Derby, which was Eddie Arcaro’s first Derby winner.

IT AIN’T HAY – You can purchase this with one of Abbott and Costello collection packages. It is without a doubt the funniest racing movie ever made, starring Bud and Lou, who unleash a barrage of racing bits that are hysterical, especially one that takes place in a betting parlor that is a classic. I won’t ruin it for you. The movie has an assortment of characters, including several Damon Runyon characters (it was based on a Damon Runyon story), and shows you brief scenes of old Saratoga in front of the majestic Grand Union Hotel and has a star racehorse named Teabiscuit. It also has a botched horsenapping due to mistaken identity, as Abbott and Costello steal Teabiscuit by mistake, and even throws in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It’s just crazy fun, with a feel of Saratoga and Runyonesque characters, and with a gripping emotional scene that really tugs at the heartstrings and ignites the main plot of the film. I never get tired of watching this movie, as it makes me laugh every time.

CASEY’S SHADOW – I’m venturing away from Thoroughbred racing to include this well-made film that takes place in the world of Quarter-Horse racing. It stars Walter Matthau and is loosely based on the Romero brothers (Randy and Gerald). It is an extremely realistic look at the Quarter-Horse world, well acted, and beautifully photographed, especially the sequences of Casey’s Shadow growing from foal to full-grown racehorse that can easily induce goosebumps. The plot got a little too formulated in the second half of the film, with the obligatory gangsters. But all in all it was a wonderfully made and highly entertaining movie.

NATIONAL VELVET – This is the movie that has created more female horse lovers than any in history. It is the story, beautifully told and photographed, of a 14-year-old horse-crazy Velvet Brown, who falls in love with a wild horse named The Pie, and winds up substituting for his regular jockey and riding him to victory in the Grand National, only to be disqualified. But that doesn’t matter. This film, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney, is the standard by which all movies and books about young girls who love horses is measured. So many young girls have aspired to be jockeys after having watched this film. Yes it is a typical Hollywood plot for its time, but who cares. As mentioned it earlier, it hits you on an emotional level, and is well-written, well-acted, and beautifully photographed.

GLORY – Don’t confuse this 1956 film with the more modern Civil War film. The plot is totally far-fetched about a filly who was born during an electrical storm and somehow makes it to the Kentucky Derby off one six-furlong claiming race. But the reasons to watch it include the excellent acting and biting dialogue between Walter Brennan and Charlotte Greenwood and the film footage of Swaps defeating Nashua in the Derby. It portrays racing in general in an intelligent way, but you just have look past the crazy plot.

HORSE BIOGRAPHY:

PHAR LAP – Although I haven’t seen it in ages, having taped it on VHS, which is long gone, it is simply the most faithful biography of a racehorse of all time; beautifully told and beautifully filmed, and extremely well acted. To add to the realism, the horse who played Phar Lap was the splitting image of the legendary Australian champion. The film even used actual newspaper pages reporting his controversial death in California. It is visually stunning, portrays no stereotypes, and is not afraid to expose the human frailties of its main characters. The only noticeable flaw is the film’s insinuation that Phar Lap was killed by mobsters, while failing to offer the alternative possibility that he was accidentally poisoned by ingesting pesticides sprayed on a field where he was grazing. But if you love horses and racing, this is a must see.

CHAMPIONS – Jockey battles back from cancer and is reunited with his horse, who has simultaneously returned from a serious career-threatening injury, and the pair team up to win the Grand National Steeplechase. Had the story of Bob Champion and Aldaniti not been true, it would have been considered too unrealistic and too Hollywood. But it was true, and what separated Champions from other equine biographies was Aldaniti playing himself. That was a stroke of genius and you kept thinking of that as you watched him re-enact the events of his life. Many objected to the depiction of Champion’s battle with cancer in agonizing detail, taking up a great deal of the film, and while it was tough getting through it, its candor only helped to enhance the story’s emotional, fairy tale ending. And the filming of the Grand National was nothing short of spectacular.

DREAM HORSE – Made in 2020 it is to me the best racing film made in several decades and shows that you can still make a great one without any noticeable deviation from the facts. It depicts the people and the place as well as any racing film and having established actors such as Toni Collette and Damian Lewis who fit right in with a collection of actors makes it look as if they were taken right out of the small Welsh town where the story takes place.

This is an inspiring story of Dream Alliance and bartender Janet Vokes (Collette), who became interested in bloodlines and decided to buy a potential broodmare named Rewbell, who had been injured on a barbed wire fence and had a bad disposition, for 350 pounds. When she produced a colt by American-bred stallion Bien Bien in partnership with a racing breeder from the town, Collette sets off on her quest to have the townsfolk chip in their meager earnings to help raise the colt. With opposition from many of the spouses she succeeds to get 23 people who put up 10 pounds a week to help raise the colt and pay his training bills. Bottom line is that Dream Alliance suffers a serious tendon injury that required stem cell treatment, which was new at the time. He recovers and goes on to win the Welsh Grand National. This is a heartwarming, well acted, and magnificently filmed move that is a must for all racing fans.

SEABISCUIT – This was a relatively high-budget film that was very well made and filmed in dramatic fashion, from the bush track match races to the match race with War Admiral. The movie focused quite a bit on the back stories of the humans behind the horse and the struggles during the Depression. But as a pure horse racing movie and biography it took a very long time before Seabiscuit was even introduced. And to make up for lost time, they turned him into a national celebrity after only a few victories in lesser stakes, and then embellished the David vs. Goliath theme by making War Admiral some 18-hands behemoth (which was a joke) when he was actually the same size as the much smaller Seabiscuit who measured 15.2 hands. They did a super job filming the match race, Gary Stevens was excellent, and all in all it was a good movie, even if it did take forever to get to Seabiscuit. I probably would have ranked this movie higher if I had never read Laura Hillenbrand’s epic biography. In the book, the backdrop was an integral part of the story, but it is difficult to condense everything in the book into a two hour and 20-minute film. I watched it recently and it still seemed long and drawn out. Then it appeared to rush through the second half of the movie. There are gorgeous scenes filmed at picturesque Xalapa Farm in Paris, Kentucky. If you haven’t see it it still makes for an excellent gift.

SECRETARIAT — As many major faults as this movie has, I am going to give it somewhat of a pass because of how much the budget was cut by Disney. And they made it way too Disneyesque, with odd location choices and several nonsensical scenes. But I did like the beginning when Penny Tweedy is called from her home in Colorado to come back to Virginia and help save the farm. The problem with making a movie about a horse that looked like Secretariat is that you can never find a horse physically worthy of portraying him and depicting the incredible larger than life aura he had. The same went for the very disappointing RUFFIAN (No one disliked this movie more than her trainer Frank Whiteley). Neither of these films came close to doing justice to the actual horse. But at least with Secretariat it brought Big Red to the big screen and stayed loyal to the legend, which is why a lot of young people enjoyed it, even if it only gave them a hint of what they missed. The film also seemed miscast in places. Diane Lane as Penny was believable, however John Malkovich was laughable as Lucien Laurin, and Pancho Martin was unfairly portrayed as the film’s primary villain. If you’re young and have no recollection of Secretariat and can ignore the fabricated, fictional scenes you will likely enjoy it for providing a look at an equine superhero that previously existed mainly on video and YouTube, and to younger fans in their imagination. For racing aficionados who saw the movie and lived through Big Red’s reign, you just have to put the scalpel away and resist the temptation to dissect it.

THE STORY OF SEABISCUIT – Not to be confused with Seabiscuit, this purely fictionalized biography stars Shirley Temple and an excellent Barry Fitzgerald, and is actually pretty entertaining for what it is. Just don’t believe that this is in any way the story of Seabiscuit. But if you want to see great actual film footage of the Seabiscuit — War Admiral match race, you definitely want to see this movie.

BLACK GOLD – One of the great stories of the Turf, this movie, starring Anthony Quinn, takes a lot of liberties and greatly embellishes the story of Rosa Hoots and the improbable Kentucky Derby winner Black Gold, but it’s still a fun movie. 

MOVIES ABOUT BETTING:

LET IT RIDE – There are a number of movies that feature scenes of betting horses, some with small racing plots, but it is not at all what the movie is about. When it comes to betting on horses one movie stands alone. People either loved or hated this film about a degenerate gambler, brilliantly played by Richard Dreyfuss, who normally is your typical loser, but has the one day every horseplayer fantasizes about. It is a never-ending day, shot at Hialeah Racetrack, in which Dreyfuss leaves the track several times to go to the bar across the street to hang out with his cronies or goes home to his frantic wife, who has had it with his gambling…and losing. But no matter what he does, he can’t lose. And it all starts with an insider’s tip overheard by Dreyfuss’ dim-witted friend in his taxi cab that has nefarious implications. But for Dreyfuss it is the one big break he has been dreaming about. That sets off one incredibly and surreal day at the track. The people who disliked the movie and found it far-fetched don’t see it for what it is – the fantasy of every horseplayer. If you look at it as pure fantasy you’re more likely to enjoy it. It captures the frenzy of the racetrack and every type of crazed horseplayer imaginable. There is an overhead scene with Dreyfuss in the bar’s rest room stall realizing he doesn’t belong with his clique of “losers” and appears to be pleading his case to God that is hysterical.

GRITTY MOVIES:

BOOTS MALONE – This 1952 film starring William Holden pulls no punches and depicts life on the backstretch with stark realism. It is as well acted and as well written as any racing movie, and has an excellent and thought-provoking plot that moves along at a swift pace and takes you to places most people have never been to, focusing on a young jockey and his down-on-his-luck agent. Holden is terrific as usual, going from successful agent, living high in the fanciest hotels, to living in a tack room and trying to scrape up a few dollars after his star jockey is killed. He gets enough to buy a cheap horse and then discovers a green aspiring young rider who has run away from his rich family. This is unlike any racing movie in that it does not glorify the sport and is not afraid to show you its underbelly.

THE KILLING – One of Stanley Kubrick’s early films that is as close as you’ll get to racing film noir. It is filmed almost like a stage play, with surreal backdrops, and is not for the faint of heart, as it is pretty violent at times, especially the end, with the plot focusing about the attempt of a bunch of hoods to make a killing at the track…literally, by shooting the favorite during the race and disguising the crime so that no one knows just what happened. It is like watching the proverbial train wreck – disturbing, but you can’t take your eyes off it, either despite of or because of the simplicity in the way it is filmed. And what better actor to star in a ‘50s film noir movie than Sterling Hayden, who plays his part to perfection.

THE ROCKING HORSE WINNER – Not a true racing movie, but one of the really great films and with an unusual storyline, about a young boy in England who rides his rocking horse frantically, and the faster he goes he reaches a point where he has seems to escape the real world and can predict the winners at the track. There is a lot more to this innovative plot. It has superb acting and is extremely thought provoking. Not an easy film to find.

JOCKEYThis is the most recent racing movie about an aging jockey looking for his one big break to ride a top-class horse, and is as realistic as you can get. It is more of a cerebral movie with actually no real racing scenes, and it doesn’t try to tug at your heartstrings. What makes this movie work so well is the brilliant, but low-keyed acting of Clifton Collins Jr., who as his bio says, “Was born short, lean, and mean on June 16, 1970.” And that is exactly the character he plays to perfection. It’s still around on TV and worth looking for.

OTHERS TO REMEMBER IN CASE YOU COME ACROSS THEM:

THE BLACK STALLION – This isn’t categorized because it isn’t a horse racing film in the true sense. It is more about a horse and a boy and a desert island, with the last part of the movie focusing on a horse race. If you do consider it a horse racing movie, then it definitely belongs under entertaining, as it is absolutely stunning, with another excellent performance by Mickey Rooney and a spectacularly filmed horse race. The scenes on the desert island of this magnificent black horse and the stranded boy slowly interacting are truly brilliant, and you won’t find more beautifully filmed scenes than the ones of “The Black” running through the water.

PRIDE OF THE BLUEGRASS – This is an outlandish plot that is actually based to some extent on a true story, just don’t ask me how much, because I laughed at this movie when I saw it. It starts with a mare giving birth to a colt. The barn is struck by lightning, killing her owner, but his seventeen-year-old son escapes with the colt, named Gantry the Great. A young girl gets the boy a job on the horse farm owned by her father. The boy, Danny, trains and rides Gantry, who becomes a good horse, but after being abused by his regular trainer he goes blind in the Kentucky Derby, as the favorite, and is pulled up by Danny. No one knows he went blind so Danny is banned for a year and Gantry is to be destroyed. But instead Danny trains him to jump and enters the blind horse in Grand National Steeplechase in England. Before you start laughing just know that in the description of the movie, Gantry the Great, whose actual name was Elmer Gantry, is played by the real Elmer Gantry. I won’t tell you if he wins the Grand National.

RIDING HIGH – This was an excellent vehicle for racing lover Bing Crosby, and the end of the movie will tear your heart out. But this film was a remake of the 1934 movie titled Broadway Bill. Frank Capra was so dissatisfied with the original he remade it in 1950 with plenty of songs. The only problem was that for some reason Capra left in a number of scenes from the original movie, and it was so obvious these scenes were from an older movie with different actors.

SPORTING BLOOD – This is a real oldie made in 1931 starring a young Clark Gable. Not only is it very well made, with an interesting plot, it contains the most remarkable footage ever shot at the Kentucky Derby, in this case the 1930 running, with the movie interacting with the footage. You have to see it to believe it. It occasionally pops up on Turner Classic Movies.

A DAY AT THE RACES – Typical Marx Bothers wackiness that wasn’t that much about racing. But there was a classic line when Groucho, playing a horse doctor, was treating a horse in his office and gave him a bottle of pills and told him, “Take two every half mile.”

DOWN THE STRETCH – Mickey Rooney is terrific playing a jockey with an attitude named Snapper Sinclair. It is a pretty interesting plot with your typical race fixing, but with loyalty, good conscience, and clearing your father’s name added to the mix.

SARATOGA – This was a pretty high-profile movie in 1937 starring Clark Gable and Jean Harlowe and Lionel Barrymore. It is a witty and intelligent movie, more about betting and high rollers, with Gable playing a bookie. I remember finding it quite enjoyable. 

THE STING – Although this is not a racing movie, it has a great racing flavor when the action takes place at a makeshift bookie parlor, and they even mention Mo Annenberg, who invented the wire and owned the Morning Telegraph. The greatest movie tip of all time — “Place it on Lucky Dan.” Even if it’s not a racing movie, it is one of the great movies of all time and definitely worth watching more than once. 

THE LEMON DROP KID – This is another Damon Runyon story about a racetrack tout, played by Bob Hope. Again, there isn’t a lot of racing in it, but it did become famous for introducing the classic Christmas song Silver Bells.

MY OLD MAN – Adapted from an Ernest Hemingway short story, this was a pretty decent made-for-TV film with an excellent performance by Warren Oates.

DREAMER – Many people liked this film, but I had a major problem with Dakota Fanning, who I found annoying enough to not enjoy it. So I can’t judge this film fairly.

THE HOMESTRETCH – This little known film starring Maureen O’Hara and Cornell Wilde is pretty entertaining, taking you from Argentina to Saratoga to Churchill Downs, and has a solid enough plot. It’s not your standard fare and well worth looking for, if it even exists anymore.

WALL OF NOISE – Even lesser known than The Homestretch, I did enjoy it. Starring Suzanne Pleshette and TV star Ty Hardin, it is far from a classic, but Hardin is excellent and has flaws in his character, which you don’t see too often from the star of the movie.

Racing historian, author, and award-winning retired journalist for the Daily Racing Form and The Blood-Horse, Steve Haskin was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame’s Media Roll of Honor in 2016. Known for his racing knowledge and insightful prose, he has been an exclusive contributor to Secretariat.com since 2020.


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146 Responses to “Horse Racing Movies for the Holidays”

  1. Lynda King says:

    MatthewW, “War Horse” was a very, very difficult movie to watch. It was very graphic and heart breaking. Had friends who went the theater to watch and they had to leave.
    As to Avatar, I loved it!!!

  2. Davids says:

    “War Horse” was a distressing but triumphal film. The stage version was only slightly less emotional to endure.

    • Matthew W says:

      I spent a bundle taking my son’s to the IMAX showing of War Horse, and it ranks as the biggest disappointment of any movie I ever attended, because I expected something terrific..later I took them and their friends to Avatar, because they wanted to go, and I had just hit the pick five for $7900 (I got $5300), on a $12 ticket (leg five was a single named Christmas Candy, a 9-1 shot that won by 11 lengths, but I digress…) cost of the movie was around $200, I thought it was about Tommy Doyle’s big 1975 Derby 2nd and Belmont winner, alas it was about….ah…er…..I don’t remember, THAT movie was also a disappointment!

      • Lynda King says:

        MatthewW, “War Horse” was a very, very difficult movie to watch. It was very graphic and heart breaking. Had friends who went the theater to watch and they had to leave.
        As to Avatar, I loved it!!!

      • Davids says:

        Yes, the film for me was disappointing as well but the stage production was brilliant. In the stage play the puppet horses are life size, emotive, and very affective. In film, if the animal characters are going to be mistreated due to the storyline I’ll skip it.

        Equus, a brilliant play and wonderful on stage, was also an excellent film but the blinding of the horses in the film distressed for years, nay, a lifetime.

        • Matthew W says:

          I saw a Fred MacMurray western….this guy is trying to get away.. there are two horses, he takes one—-AFTER slicing the other’s rear right tendon, and it sickened me…..

  3. Matthew W says:

    Was talking to my brother about Flightline’s past performance line….six perfect races….and we talked about that Tom Ainslie classic book, where he handicapped the 1967 Woodward card, with those long pps for Buckpasser, Dr Fager, Damascus, long lines of wins! I guess you’d have to be a gelding, today, to complete such a line of wins…but for THREE horses in one race….

  4. Lynda King says:

    Just to confirm….Rick Dawson, Rich Strike’s owner said that the colt was scoped after the race and has a sinus infection and lung congestion (pneumonia) and has been put on antibiotics.
    Saw this on Twiiter just now.

  5. Steve,
    Love when you do columns like this and again you didn’t miss with this one. Some of these I have never heard of or seen so will be on the lookout for them. Love your synopsis of each movie you mentioned on your list and for the ones I have see you were right on.
    “Let it Ride” is my go to movie just before the Kentucky Derby and usually gets watched at least twice a year. My wife loves the movie (lucky for me) as she is not much of a horse racing fan. The toilet scene is classic as you noted and beginning of the movie my wife gets the biggest kick out of is Teri Garr and Dreyfus arguing over the fortune cookie. Just so many characters in that movie that if you are a horse racing enthusiast you have see at the track.

    The Black Stallion is just a beautifully done movie and the everytime I see that race it reminds me of Exceller in the Jockey Gold Cup and his win over Seattle Slew. I had to laugh when you said in your previous article on that race that Exceller was in another zip code because he was so far back at the beginning, just like “The Black” in this race. Other notables that were not on your list were … “The Longshot” with Tim Conway (great horseracing fan in real life) and Harvey Korman and “Hildago” as pointed in an earlier comment by Mr Rickard.

    Seabiscuit is another well done movie and I tell people I talk to if you have never seen the movie or read the book (a must read) I tell them see the movie first then read the book and not vice versa.

    Steve once again thanks for a great column and will be on the lookout for movies I have not seen. Hope you had a Great Thanksgiving !!!

  6. Lynda King says:

    If you love horse themed movies, there are two more rhat I would suggest.
    Snowy River and Return to Snowy River and Sylvester.
    There is a reference to horse racing in the Snowy River movies and there are awesome scenes in both that demonstrate amazing riding skills.
    Sylvester is based on a true story about a rodeo bronc horse who is transformed into a champion jumper. Richard Garnsworth, one of my favorite western character actor costars in the movie. The scene where he is riding Sylvester in the moonlight (dressage) is just beautiful.

  7. TommyMc says:

    Four Stakes races at Aqueduct next Saturday including the Cigar Mile, the Remsen, the Demoiselle, and the Go For Wand. The Remsen and Demoiselle for 2-year olds. Possibly the last interesting day of racing until Opening Day at Santa Anita on the day after Christmas.

  8. Steve Haskin says:

    Tuesday TCM is showing a few horse movies including The Story of Seabiscuit. If you can get past the fictitious stoyline and some racial sterotypes frrom that era it is a fun movie with Shirley Temple and Barry Fitzgerald and actual footage of the match race. One other they are showing is The Gypsy Colt which I’ve never seen.

    • Tom’s Kid says:

      Speaking of the wonderful Diane Lane, in possibly her first feature “A Little Romance” horse racing plays a significant role in the early plot of the film. The cast is excellent, and directed by George Roy Hill. It also shows up on TCM now and then. A lovely movie.

  9. Eric Rickard says:

    Nice movie list.
    Let It Ride depicts racetrack characters to a tee!

    Others to mention are:

    Hidalgo long distance racing.

    The Longshot was a very funny movie.

    Not a horse racing movie but for horse lovers, The Man From Snowy River is a must watch movie.

    On a side note, you could list the Quiet Man as a Horse Racing movie as it has the Innesfree Cup in it, won by The Black and the Duke.

  10. TommyMc says:

    As we come to the end of 2022, the same old problems persist. They continue to run races right on top of each other. I’ve been watching Churchill all day on TVG. Gulfstream and Churchill were starting their races almost simultaneously most of the day. Now, I look at my screen and it says Churchill in 5 minutes and Del Mar in 5 minutes. Stop the MADNESS.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      But what did you think of the 2YO races, Tommy Mc? Some sprightly times were posted, but not by the winner of the Ky. Jockey Club Stakes. The Golden Rod winner ran nearly 2 seconds faster.

      • Davids says:

        Ms Blacktype, I’d be surprised if the best 3 year old colts for the Classics next year have won 2 year old stakes races this year. We’ll see.

        • Ms Blacktype says:

          You make a good point, Davids. I was actually more curious to see what folks thought of some of the non-stakes performances by 2YOS on yesterday’s Churchill card. I was busy yesterday and have yet to even watch the Ky. Jockey Club Stakes. May do that this afternoon.

        • Matthew W says:

          Davids I usually agree with you but—I’d be surprised if Forte and Cave Rock are not big contenders, in the 2023 Triple Crown! Two weeks after the Breeders Cup my friend showed me how that backstretch headwind was tiring out horses, on the BCup Saturday….Flightline was the only dirt horse that won that wasn’t covered up down the backstretch, and Forte just looks like a monster, with a big stride and he takes kickback like an old pro—2022 has had a couple or three solid looking horses, and Bob loves his other 2yo that ran third…

          • Davids says:

            Matthew, Forte and Cave Rock would be the two leading contenders at this stage but, for whatever reason, luck/fate whatever seems to bedevil these types during the prep races. Will they be better 2 year olds than 3 year olds?

            It’s just a guess, more than a conviction, but it’s unlikely Forte and Cave Rock will win the roses. Cave Rock having to be shipped around is not ideal and his attitude during the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was unhelpful. If Forte continues to improve and is lucky enough to avoid unseen problems he’d be the one to beat but that’s hoping for a lot.

            I’m just expecting a colt like Signator to really blossom next year.

            • Matthew W says:

              I’m still of the group that likes a horse to have raced at two vs other winners…Justify was the mold-breaker—he was also a one in a million talent! And he beat a weak crop! I think Forte and Cave Rock are the real deal, and they have an edge on non-starter/maiden winners, heading into the 2023 Spring..

              • Davids says:

                Matthew, like yourself, I want 2 year old experience for the Kentucky Derby runners but not a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile preparation. Too much too soon? I always liked the Hollywood Futurity slower prepping.

                I was really disappointed that Signator missed the Nashua Stakes, now we’ll have to wait and see next year. If Forte and Cave Rock are still around and in form around May next year they would be formidable opponents but will they be there?

      • TommyMc says:

        Hoosier Philly looks to be a very good one. I’m not too excited about the Colts in the Kentucky Jockey Club. No offense. They could and probably will turn out to be useful horses, but I doubt that the Derby winner was running yesterday. There are better 2-year-old Colts IMO. In fact, as good as Hoosier Philly has looked, there are some other pretty good Fillies out there. Wonder Wheel, Faiza, and Dazzling Blue come to mind. I’m looking forward to the Oaks/Derby trail to start after the first of the year. It will be fun.

  11. Carol Fox says:

    Hi Steve. I loved this column. 50-1 is one of my favorite movies of any type. I’ll bet I watched the Kentucky Derby footage 20 times or more and it always gave me goosebumps. Starting with the scene where Bird is running dead last and Calvin Borel says “OK Bird, Let’s go,” to when they start moving along the rail, threading their way through the field to Bird taking the lead and Borel waving “Bye Bye,” with his whip to the other jocks as they pull away.
    And I have wanted to see the movie Glory ever since you mentioned that it had clear footage of Swaps beating Nashua in the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, its rather pricey if you can find it. Although most of it was filmed in Kentucky at Calumet Farms (Gene Markey wrote the story) and Churchill Downs, director David Butler wanted some behind the scenes shots at a racetrack barn, and chose Meshach Tenney’s barn at which to film them. Margaret O’Brien, the star asked if she could ride Swaps and incredibly, Tenney let her do so. She rode Swaps for 10 minutes around the tow ring, thankfully with no mishap. She also accompanied the Ellsworth -Tenney crew to Chicago for the match race and spent a lot of her time there promoting Glory.

  12. Profsdottir says:

    Such a fantastic list, and a few I haven’t seen yet and look forward to! I have two more suggestions for the moldy-oldy fans (of which I am one): Broadway Melody of 1938 with the inimitable Eleanor Powell as a trainer (a tap dancing trainer at that), along with Buddy Ebsen and Judy Garland (one year before the Wizard of Oz); and A Day at the Races with (of course) the Marx Brothers.

  13. TommyMc says:

    Not good that Rich Strike finished last against that field. They were older horses, but they weren’t Grade 1 types. Well, I guess Proxy is a Grade 1 winner now. What now? Does Rich Strike become a Derby winner that never wins another race? We’ll see. I wish the horse the best, but after Sonny Leon’s shenanigans in the Lukas Classic, I wouldn’t mind seeing a jockey change.

    • Davids says:

      Tapit already has two champion sons from his 2018 crop, Essential Quality, Flightline, at stud for 2023. Proxy, another Grade 1 winner from Tapit’s 2018 crop, would provide a less expensive alternative than these two with, arguably, a better pedigree than his more illustrious “brothers”(sic).

    • Steve Haskin says:

      That was extrremely disappointing. Perhaps one race too many. I thought they would skip the BC and point for the Clark and while I admirre their sportsmanship I think it cost them any shot at the winning the Clark.

      • Lynda King says:

        Feel very bad for Rich Strike. I would have thought he would have won easily.

      • Steve,
        I have to say that I disagree with your answer here “Perhaps one race too many” on Rich Strike performance in yesterday’s Clark handicap. I feel that this was a classic case of a horse that was “under trained” and given a poor ride. I wish there were horse journalist, like the late Clem Florio who would was not afraid to ask the hard questions to the trainers, who would ask trainer Reed if you thought the horse came out of the BCC in good shape … why no recorded workouts ( Although I did not have a racing form for yesterday race , I did check DRF workouts and saw that the last recorded workout for the horse was on Oct 25 (which I felt for the last work for the horse before the BCC was “PATHETIC”). Another question I would think that should have been asked was the ride he was given… who made the decision to have the horse press the pace? The horse clearly runs his best races as a closer !!! I had to laugh at the comments in Bloodhorse write up on the race on Rich Strike…
        The latter, returning on 20 days rest after a fourth-place finish in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 5, lacked his customary late kick and weakened after stalking the pace along the inside in fourth. He lost by 8 1/4 lengths. How could he have a customary late kick when he was asked to give it in the middle of the race!?!?! As far as no workout between races why wasn’t he given one ??? Laz Barerra gave BOLD FORBES a 1 1/2 mile workout between the Preakness and Belmont (3 weeks between races) . Lucien Laurin gave Secretariat a 1 1/8 mile workout between the Preakness and Belmont and then went on to set the world record for a 1 1/2 mile race as we all know and just one more… Buddy Delp gave Spectacular Bid two work outs between the San Fernando and the Strubs Stakes (2 weeks between races ) one a 1 mile workout (in about 1:36) and a 3 furlong blowout the day before the race … oh by the way he set the world record for a 1 1/4 mile which still stands today.
        There are more I could sight but you get the jist of it from these examples.

        The workout I would have liked to seen for Rich Strike would have been last Sunday a 5 furlong between 58 and 59, and the ride would have been that of a closer being absolutely last going into the first turn and then be all out going into the far turn.

        I wish Penny Chenery besides creating the “Vox Populi Award” (silly me I voted for Rich Strike … can I have my vote back?!?) would have also created another award called the “Not the Sharpest Tool in the Shed” award as Eric Reed would clearly be the frontrunner for it.

        You wonder why racing is losing fans and it is because of poor performances like Rich Strikes yesterday which I do not blame on the horse but more on his trainer and possibly his jockey. Leave a bitter taste and upset stomach !!!

        BTW, when I saw the horse had no workouts after the BCC I decided not to bet Rich Strike in the Clark he was the only horse I was considering as I did not have a form to handicap the race.

        And Tommy Mc ,your question Does Rich Strike become a Derby winner that never wins another race? If things don’t change with his training and rides it may come true !!!

        Ok I have vented !!!

        To change the subject Steve,love this column you wrote and will be commenting on it either later today or tomorrow

        • Mike Relva says:

          Should’ve skipped Clark. He gave up before race concluded.

          • Mike Relva says:

            lmao He RAN MORE RACES compared w/ FL’s whole career.

            • Mike you just don’t get it !!! The horse did not need a break but needed to be brought up to the race right and given the proper ride (closer). Reed should have built on that race (the BCC) but instead he let everything he gained from it go down the drain by just jogging and galloping. I will give you an example of what I am talking about. Recent winner, Justique, of the Desi Arnez (November) at Del Mar and had run in Oct at SA in the Chandelier. She won in July at Del Mar in a last to first finish. She goes into the Chandelier as the favorite and using the same running style runs a dull third. After the race the trainer noticed she came out of the race tired but it was a “slowly” run race?!?! Now under your thinking the trainer (John Sherriff’s .. Zenyatta fame) should have backed off given the horse a rest but instead he realized he undertrained the horse and gave her sharper workouts ( the last before the Desi Arnez 5 furlongs in 58 flat ) and using the same running style ate up her competition.

              In yesterday’s race I blame most of Rich Strike poor showing on the ride he was given (but a sharp work would have helped ) he is a “closer” and once Eric Reed realizes that he will have more success with him

              And as far as your comments on Flightline and less races look at his workouts before each race. Sadler did not go easy on those works as they were sharp and fast and every 7 days. Using each work too build on the next work. If you have a “Champion” you train them like a “Champion” if you want to get the best out of them.

              But I can assure you now that you don’t have to worry about Rich Strike getting a rest as he will get one now whether he needs it or not.

              • Mike Relva says:

                John S. is revered. He knows racing. As for Rich S. we disagree.

                • Lynda King says:

                  If there is one thing Rich Strike is known for in my opinion is that he, like HRC, runs his heart out.
                  Putting aside track conditions, gate, training up to the race, time between races and ride he was given in the Clark, Rich Strike just basically quit. If I were his owner, that would concern me.
                  So of I were his owner, regardless of what the trainer says, Rich Strike would be going for a complete physical checkup including bone scans, x-rays, imaging and blood work.
                  This would be my my demand before he takes time off or races again.
                  Horses have a way of telling us if there is a problem.

              • JanBer says:

                They’re saying he scoped as having a sinus and lung infection after the race, that’s consistent with how he ran.

    • Mike Relva says:

      And some individuals whine regarding FL career. No one can be pleased….. ever! RS will be fine,providing he receives a break.

    • Davids says:

      Proxy has beaten Mandaloun twice, Midnight Bourbon, and Americanrevolution, previously all Grade 1 winners. Proxy has always been a Grade 1 racehorse in talent and now has the Grade 1 to go to stud with. Excellent pedigree as well.

  14. Davids says:

    Proxy, finally gets his Grade 1. Fun race.

  15. TommyMc says:

    The Churchill turf course looks a lot better than it did on Arlington Million Day. At least I didn’t see all the dirt and sand flying up in the air. That’s only one race. I’m hopeful that they have that mess figured out.

  16. Roberta Greevey says:

    Hi Steve and friends! I’ve been away for a long while but this was a wonderful compilation to come back to. I hadn’t realized how many really good movies there have been about horse racing or at least with a horse racing element. One that I liked that isn”t on the list is “Murphy’s Stroke” about a plan to switch horses in a race and win a big bet. I dug up the latter because I was madly in love with Pierce Brosnan and looked for every movie of his that I could find. It may have originally been on British TV and I think it was Mr. Brosnan’s first role. Admission: I’m still in love with him.

  17. Alana Krider says:

    It’s strange that nobody has mentioned “Dark Horse”, the fabulous documentary on which the fictionalized account, “Dream Horse”, was based.

    “Dark Horse” is probably the best documentary I’ve seen, and not just the best horse racing documentary. Can’t recommend it highly enough. It won both the Audience and Grand Jury prizes at Sundance in 2015. It’s also the perfect Christmas movie, being basically a real-life fairy tale. Check it out here: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4137902/

  18. JanBer says:

    The PBS documentary on Seabiscuit was really good if you can get a hold of it. Have looked for the Phar Lap film at different points, hard to find. Another one that was excellent but seems impossible to find was a documentary made about John Henry — John Henry: A Steel-Driving Racehorse. I thought the documentary was great but it’s pretty much disappeared.

  19. Ms Blacktype says:

    What a nice present for Thanksgiving week, Steve! I’ve tended to avoid movies about horse racing because there is always a heart-breaking moment (usually involving the horse) and I find it too painful. But I’m intrigued by several of the earlier movies you mentioned, especially Boots Malone, which I’d never heard of. I think I caught part of either Saratoga or Sporting Blood on TCM or AMC recently. I’ll definitely look for both.

    One film no one has mentioned is The Reivers based on the excellent novel by William Faulkner. The racing part is right out of 19th century bush track realism — and eerily evocative of HOF trainer Sam Hildreth’s account of a fixed race that cost his father a fortune in the 1870s (as recounted in his autobiography, “The Spirit of the Turf”). Perhaps this is why I fail to make progress on my book about Hildreth — someone has already “told” the best parts brilliantly.

  20. Matthew W says:

    Another terrific Horse Racing movie….a comedy….”A Nice Little Bank That Should Be Robbed”, Mackey Rooney and Tom Ewell, about two guys trying to get enough moolah so that Rooney can get his trainers license, (he flunks the test) ..so they rob a bank, and have to keep robbing banks to support their horse!

  21. Russell Cardenas says:

    Loved Dream Horse… great film, saw it several times. Great script, acting superb, and racing action really good. It brought to mind the reasons why I dislike this type of racing, obstacle, steeple chase, etc…. Too dangerous! I wonder what the fatality rate is on these courses for both horse and rider? Must be high. Nevertheless, the film really brought forth the excitement of a horse winning a race, any race for that matter, but the Grand National? Highly recommend this film. Secretariat was an awful film, great actors but a bad script…

  22. Discopartner says:

    A good one, maybe a children’s film, with rugged on location scenery, is For the Love of Mike, starring Richard Basehart as a priest and Danny Bravo as the boy who lives at the church and tends to his quarter horse and other pets. There’s a singing cowboy, a big bet, and a climactic horse race on a dusty road at the county fair. Another is My Brother Talks to Horses, set in late horse and buggy days, with Peter Lawford and his younger brother, played by the younger brother in National Velvet, who talks to race horses and always picks the winner, until he no longer can. It brings up the intriguing idea that the horses entered in a race know who’s going to win!

  23. TommyMc says:

    The Saturday card at Churchill Downs is out. 12 races. All 2-year-olds. Five Maiden races. All with full fields. Those barns at Churchill must be busting at the seams with 2-year-olds. Only one turf race. They must be bringing their “troubled” turf course along slowly. I’m waiting to see what Del Mar looks like for Saturday.

  24. TommyMc says:

    If we are just talking about movies with horseracing in them, there was the James Bond 007 movie “A View to a Kill” that featured the always good Christopher Walken as the main villain and Grace Jones as his hench-woman. The movie was dreadful IMO. We’re talking “Moonraker” bad. But it did feature horseracing and a genetically engineered horse. If that SOUNDS bad, it was worse. The Roger Moore Bond films just weren’t as good as the Sean Connery ones. One exception was “The Man with the Golden Gun”. There were also some standard-breds in “Goldfinger”.

  25. Matthew W says:

    Lest we forget The Three Stooges, with Moe and Curly driving a motorcycle with a long handled basket of hot peppers, feeding the horse (eith Larry aboard)…horse won the race and they all ate at the same table afterward!