Friday, May 3, 2013

The Triple Crown Winner

And they're off! Coming around the first bend is Lucretia's Child, in the lead by a body length with The Fat Lady Sings, Gone With the Wind, Dunkin' Dixie and I'm Gonna Get You following closely behind. Now Lucretia's Child and Dunkin' Dixie are neck to neck..and here comes the home stretch...aaaand Seabiscuit is the winner!! ( Darn. I bet two bits on Dunkin' Dixie ).

With the Kentucky Derby, the most popular horse race in the U.S classics, coming up this Saturday what better way to get into the hoof of the moment then by watching some winning horse racing films. Can't think of any good ones off the top of your head? Well then, you've come to the right place.  

Below we have a line-up of some of the finest racing flicks you'll ever come across ( pre-1965 of course ). Look over the contenders while they are in the paddock, read the plots, weigh the odds, use your gut instinct and then place your bets, for on Saturday they race! Okay, not really "race"...but they are going to be compared head to head. Select the film you think will be the Triple Crown Winner, the grand chawhee of them all, to be announced right after the Kentucky Derby. 

( Good luck trying to find a bookie who will place your bet. )  


Kentucky ( 1938 ) - Loretta Young and Richard Greene star in this Southernized modern version of Romeo and Juliet set amidst the bluegrass country of Kentucky. With a strong supporting cast included Best Supporting Actor Walter Brennan, vivid Technicolor, and a fine roster of thoroughbreds racing their hearts out, this is a winner for sure. Odds : 3-1

Boots Malone ( 1952 ) - This is the horse-racing picture for true horse-racing fans. "Boots Malone" captures life at the track the way it really is. William Holden plays a cynical agent for a young jockey who wheels and deals with everyone and everything to get what he wants ( yes, this is Holden being Sefton at the racetrack ). An unexpected ending just adds to the splendor of this great film. Odds 2-1

Pride of the Bluegrass ( 1939 ) - This Warner Brothers programmer tells the story of Elmer Gantry ( "Gantry the Great" ) a blind stallion who gallops his way to glory in the Grand National. James McCallion, Edith Fellows and Granville Bates star. Odds 7-1

National Velvet ( 1945 ) - The timeless Enid Bagnold classic comes to vivid life in this Technicolor MGM adaption starring Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Donald Crisp and Anne Revere. It's all about the story of a young girl determined to get her "Pi" into the Nationals and to win at that. Odds 2-1 

Broadway Bill ( 1934 ) - Frank Capra's classic story of a businessman whose passion for his horse leads him to forsake all to pursue his dream of entering the Kentucky Derby despite the odds being against him. Capra later remade his hit in 1953 as "Riding High" with Bing Crosby as our devoted horse fan. Warner Baxter, Myrna Loy and Clarence Muse star. Odds 2-1 

Sporting Blood ( 1931 ) - This early talkie follows the saga of Tommy Boy, a young colt who begins life with such promise and then falls into the wayward path of drugs ( he was doped into it! ) until a young woman ( Madge Evans ) decides to help him back on victory's path. Clark Gable and Ernest Torrence also star in this film which includes actual Churchill Downs racing footage. Odds 4-1

The Story of Seabiscuit ( 1949 ) - A "thorough"ly entertaining fictional account of the life and times of the great Seabiscuit prior to his winning the Triple Crown in 1937. Actual footage of Seabiscuit's win at the Kentucky Derby top off the grand finale. Shirley Temple, Lon McCallister and Barry Fitzgerald star. Odds 3-1 

Glory ( 1955 ) - Margaret O'Brien and Walter Brennan star in this story of a young woman yearning to win a big race with her philly "Glory". This coming-of-age film was made as an attempt to launch Margaret O'Brien's adult career, but it never took off. Lawrence Welk's lovely Champagne lady Norma Zimmer dubs O'Brien's singing voice for her three musical numbers. Odds 5-1 

Blue Grass of Kentucky ( 1950 ) - This Monogram quicky tells the story of Blue Grass, a "secretly" bred horse of the finest stock who is entered to win at the Kentucky Derby despite his owners doubts of his racing ability. Bill Williams, Frank Morgan, and Jane Nigh in this Kentucky drama. Odds 5-1.

Thoroughbreds Don't Cry ( 1937 ) - A young English lad and a cockey jockey set their hearts on winning the Kentucky Derby and no difficulties are too large for them to surmount. Mickey Rooney, Ron Sinclair and Judy Garland star in this light but enjoyable jaunt into the derby. Odds 4-1 


National Velvet!  This thundering winner of 2 Academy Awards ( and three more nominations ) justly deserves the flowered wreath of glory bestowed around its neck. Whilst "National Velvet" is not at all a Kentucky Derby themed film - the Grand Nationals is a "steeplechase" run - there can be no doubt that it captures in its 123 min. run time everything that a horse owner and jockey have ever felt about entering a race. 

" Do you think a race like this is run by luck? " 
" No, by knowing the Pi can win and telling him so! " 

A young girl's faith and trust in the horse she loves and her single-minded determination to win the Grand Nationals allows her to capture her dream. 

Originally a vehicle for Katherine Hepburn, Paramount sold the rights to the Enid Bagnold best-seller in 1941 to MGM studios, whence Pandro Berman took loving care of it and produced this gem of a film. 

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