Friday, February 22, 2013

Celebrate Oscar Sunday with a Horse Racing Movie

A Guest Post by Dark Horse Bet

With Oscar Sunday just days away, movie hype and Hollywood fever is in the air. Who will take home the award for best performance? Which storyline will receive the Oscar for best picture? What will the celebrities be wearing to the big event?

Though none of the films in this year’s best picture lineup involve a horse racing theme, the horse racing community is no stranger to the big screen. From true stories retold to fictional renditions of adventures at the track, many movies have captured the spirit of the sport leaving audiences touched and new generations inspired.  As a nod to the 85 Academy Awards and horse racing fans alike, we have compiled a list of 10 horse racing movies to check out next time you are surfing Netflix, Redbox or your local library’s film section.

1.) Seabiscuit (2003)

Based loosely on the true story of a Depression-era racehorse, Seabiscuit follows the unlikely racing career of an overlooked thoroughbred and his too-tall jockey, played by Tobey Maguire. These misfits become the classic underdog team, finding unexpected success that not only puts them on the tracks with the big boys, but also inspires a nation looking for hope amidst troubling  economic turmoil. Hall of Famer, jockey Gary Stevens, played the role of jockey George Woolf, bringing the race scenes to life in an invigorating way.

2.) The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)

Bob Hope plays New Yorker, Sidney Milburn, aka “The Lemon Drop Kid,” a swindler touting racehorses at a track in Florida. After he convinces a woman to change her bet to a horse that finishes in last place, the woman’s outraged, mobster beau demands a $10,000 compensation to make up for his lost potential earnings, giving “The Kid” until Christmas Eve to turn in the cash. The real-life 1999 Belmont Stakes winner, Lemon Drop Kid, was affectionately named after this comedy film.

3.) Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story (2005)

Inspired by the true story of race horse Mariah’s Storm, Dreamer chronicles the life of fictional horse Sonador, an aspiring winner who faces a severe injury that stands to jeopardize her racing career. In the film, young horse-lover, Cale Crane, (played by Dakota Fanning) is the daughter of horse trainer Ben, (played by Kurt Russell) and witnesses Sonador fall on the track. The girl insists that that her father rescue the horse from being put down. As Sonador successfully progresses through rehabilitation, the father and daughter pair restore their strained relationship.

4.) Secretariat (2010)

Secretariat is remembered not only as the 1973 Triple Crown Winner, but also as one of the greatest thoroughbred horses of all time. This film relives the tale of his victorious road and race to the top, integrating the important role of owner Penny Chenerey (played by Diane Lane) who did not lose faith in the horse known at the barn as “Big Red.” Real-life Chenerey makes a cameo appearance in the movie.

5.) A Day at the Races (1937)

Starring the three Marx Brothers, this classic comedy tells the story of three doctors who try to save a woman’s farm by winning a big race with her horse. Running into some inconvenient problems along the way, the film has racing flavor mixed with musical entertainment and a lot of laughs by this famous family comedy act.

6.) The Black Stallion (1979)

Based on the 1941 children’s novel by Walter Farley, this film is about a young boy, who, when traveling with his father, is shipwrecked on a desert island with no other survivors except the mysterious Arabian stallion traveling with them. The boy and horse develop a friendship, and after rescued, return home where they meet a trainer who helps the human/equine team prepare to race against the fastest horses in the world.

7.) National Velvet (1944)

This film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney takes place in Sussex, England where twelve-year-old Velvet (Taylor) wins an energetic horse in a raffle, and with the help of drifter and former jockey Mi Taylor (Rooney), trains the gelding to race in the Grand National Steeplechase. The film is ranked 9th on the American Film Institute’s list of 10 greatest films in the sports genre.

8.) Phar Lap (1983)

Another Depression-era champion, thoroughbred Par Lap dominated Australian horse racing during a time of economic despair. His winning career inspired the 1983 film that retells the story of the racehorse that made it to the top through the commitment of a local stable boy who bonded with him, and how a mysterious illness ended it all.

9.) Shergar (1999)

This film is an interpretation of the true story of acclaimed Irish racehorse Shergar, who won the 1981 Epsom Derby by an impressive 10 lengths, then was later abducted by who many theorized to be Irish Republican Army terrorists seeking ransom for weapons. Though the true fate of Shergar is still sadly unknown, the Hollywood portrayal tells the story of an orphan boy working on the farm who decides to save the horse by fleeing with him.

10.) Hidalgo (2004)

Based loosely on the story of American distance Rider Frank Hopkins and his horse Hidalgo, the film recounts the 1891 tale of how Hopkins and Hidalgo were summoned by a wealthy man to compete as the first American and his mustang in the legendary “Ocean of Fire,”a 3,000-mile race and grueling adventure across the Najd desert in Arabia, restricted only to pure-bred Arabian horses. Hopkins and Hidalgo eager for the challenge attempt to accomplish the impossible.

As we have seen, horseracing movies have been on the scene for decades. The sport offers many unique examples of victory, defeat, trial, disappointment and triumph, and Hollywood films have become one way to explore these stories further and pass them on to younger generations. Whether you are interested in renting one of these movies-- or one of the countless others-- next time you find yourself amidst a slow day at the tracks, maybe a cinematic break will help you find your fix. But when the gates open and the bell cues the start of a new race, we hope you will wager and win with us at Dark Horse Bet, the fastest growing community of online horse-playing.

For a look at what Santa Anita horse trainers are watching, see this previous post!