Early Look at SECRETARIAT
Being billed as “super secret,” a first screening of Disney’s SECRETARIAT was held Tuesday evening at the Woodland Hills AMC in Southern California and we had one of our LA based friends in the audience. Based on William Nack’s book, “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion,” Disney’s SECRETARIAT is the story of the famous horse that won the 1973 Triple Crown.
Here we go:
Doesn’t it seem weird that there hasn’t already been a movie made about 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, arguably one of the greatest, or perhaps the greatest race horse of all time?
Well the folks at Disney finally decided the time was right, and put the story in the very capable hands of director Randall Wallace (Man in The Iron Mask; Braveheart scribe) and writer Mike Rich (who already has sports-movie street cred with Disney’s “The Rookie” starring Dennis Quaid).
The filmmakers have done a good job of keeping everything relatively historically accurate. The movie centers on Penny Chenery (Diane Lane), Secretariat’s owner, and how she broke into the “all boys club” of thoroughbred horseracing in 1969. The real Penny Chenery, now 88, even has a cameo in the film as a spectator at the Belmont Stakes race.
The highlights of the movie come with the three big races of the Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes are both recreated magnificently with real race horses and jockeys. But what die-hard racing fans would hope for comes in the second race, the Preakness, in which we are treated to seeing the actual race from 1973, complete with the original call of the race (“and here comes Secretariat!”). That was the great part…there were 3 – THREE! big race scenes and even though we all know who wins, its very exciting! The audience went nuts and cheered after every one of them!!
The best thing about this movie is that they don’t add a lot of extraneous storylines for dramatic effect. The focus is solely on the story of where Secretariat came from and how he won the Triple Crown, a feat that had not been achieved in 25 years. The only real “disney-fication” of the film is that they sort of make it seem like Secretariat came from a broken down, old, failing horse farm. The reality is, the same owners had Riva Ridge, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont the previous year, 1972. So they were no strangers to all of this. I’m guessing none of this was mentioned in the film to keep the focus on Secretariat.
With its October 8th release, looks like Disney has smartly positioned SECRETARIAT at Oscar’s starting gate. For those race fans who can’t wait till October, the Santa Anita Derby is in a matter of weeks. With 2 big derby contenders running, horse racing fans could be on the verge of a possible Triple Crown winner!
Producer Mark Ciardi, Director Randall Wallace, Secretariat’s exercise rider Jimmy Gaffney and actress Diane Lane in the Belmont paddock. Photo Courtesy: Secretariat.com.