Directed by Randall Wallace
First of all, there never was a race horse like Secretariat. The movie “Seabiscuit”, a few years ago, was a good film about a very good horse, and that is fine. But if you like Thoroughbreds, and like to go to the track, as I do, you know that Secretariat was a race horse that no other horse ever equaled. Since 1973, when he won the Triple Crown, no one else has done it. The reason is simple; horses need to rest between races. With rare exceptions, most can’t run a mile or more without at least a couple of week’s rest, and the better horses usually go at least a month between races. The Triple Crown, though, is for 3-year-olds, who haven’t even gotten their full musculature yet, and it begins with the Kentucky Derby, a mile and a quarter, then two weeks later comes the Preakness, a mile and three-sixteenths. And then, just three weeks after that, comes the hardest challenge of all, the Belmont, at a mile and a half. If you win the Triple Crown, and only nine have done it in more than a hundred years, you are regarded as a super horse.
And the super horse among super horses is Secretariat, because he not only won the Triple Crown, he won the Belmont by 31 lengths; and set a record while doing it, something no horse in history has done.
Okay; I’ve gotten that out of my system. Now what about the movie “Secretariat?” Well, it’s a pretty standard Disney production: Wife (that’s Diane Lane) inherits a Virginia horse farm, wants to keep it in spite of he husband’s and brother’s objections, has a foal which her friend names “Secretariat,” sees that he has the makings of a great horse, hires a trainer (John Malkovich), is redeemed when the horse is named ‘horse of the year’ as a 2-year-old, doesn’t have the money to enter him in the Derby, gets it by selling shares of his stud fees, and wins, wins, and wins again. End of movie.
So, is it good? Of course it’s good. It’s a little too Christian for my taste, but Dean Semler’s photography of the races is gorgeous, and that almost makes up for the bad dialogue, the unspoken racism, and the accident at a Calgary track a few years later that made jockey Ron Turcotte a cripple without a penny to his name.
And there is one thing I haven’t mentioned: Six horses were used to play Secretariat, which is common in films, but the real Secretariat had a beautiful white blaze on his forehead. Some of the six have a blaze, some don’t, so the blaze kept appearing and disappearing, then appearing again throughout the film. It drove me crazy.