This is the biggest week in American thoroughbred racing as it gets ready for the running of the 141st Kentucky Derby Saturday. Post time is 6:24 p.m. and by 6:30, you’ll have seen the race and the replay a couple of times. (There’s a reason they call it the most exciting two minutes in sports.) You can see it on NBC, which starts its coverage at 4 p.m.
While you might prefer a mint julep or two to get you in a proper frame of mind for the race, here are seven movies about horse racing. Even if you don’t like horse racing, these are good entertainment. All can be streamed on Amazon Instant Video.
Secretariat. This 2010 Disney movie about the Triple Crown winning thoroughbred is as good as any movie made about the sport. It includes an amazing scene of Big Red, as Secretariat was known, making a remarkable finishing in the 1973 Kentucky Derby. Stars Diane Lane, John Malkovich and Nelsan Ellis.
Seabiscuit. Based on the Laura Hillenbrand book of the same name, this is the story of horse that should not have had the success that it did. It’s also a pretty good look at Depression-era America and the people behind this undersized thoroughbred. Stars Tobey Maquire as Red Pollard, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper and William H. Macey. A highlight of the film is Seabiscuit’s legendary match race against War Admiral.
Let It Ride. It’s hard to believe you could make a delightful movie about a inveterate liar and degenerate horseplayer, but this 1989 comedy proves you can. Richard Dreyfuss stars as Jay Trotter, a railbird perpetually looking for a big score. Teri Garr is his long-suffering girlfriend Pam and in a bit of casting brilliance David Johansen (a.k.a. B ouster Poindexter) is Trotter’s weird pal Looney. Let It Ride is loaded with other great, if small, performance by Robbie Coletrane (before he was Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies), Jennifer Tilly, Michelle Phillips and Cynthia Nixon. Suffice to say, Jay Trotter has “a very good day.”
Hot To Trot. Don may be a thoroughbred, but he’s no Secretariat and is not in the same league as Seabiscuit. If anything, Don is in a league of his own, and it’s a considerably minor league. But, Don is special: he can talk (and is voiced by comedy legend the lat John Candy). Equally strange is that Bobbcat Goldthwait is the1988 comedy’s leading man as Fred P. Chaney, and he actually gets the girl, the adorable Virginia Madsen as Allison Rowe. Dabney Coleman does what he does best, be a nasty, mean arrogant boss. And, he does it well as Walter Sawyer. Does Hot to Trot offer any deep meaning? Profound messages? None. But lots of horsing around.
National Velvet. This oldie (1944) but goodie stars a terribly young Elizabeth Taylor as 12-year-old Velvet Brown who wins a horse in a raffle and decides to train it for only the biggest race in England, the Grand National steeplechase. Also stars an equally young Mickey Rooney and Donald Crisp. Prepare to have your heart warmed by National Velvet.