The Films Which Tell the Tales of Famous Race Horses

Famous race horses

Among the best films made about famous race horses include Seabiscuit, Secretariat and Phar Lap.

Betting on horses is a pastime that nations have enjoyed across the world for many years. Famous racehorses and jockeys have been decorated throughout the years, winning large prize money pots and plenty of trophies.

Something that always makes a horse stand out against others is the journey they take. Tales of woeful defeats, triumphant victories, peril and adventure, all grabbing the attention of the racing industry. A few of these stories have become so famous films have been created to capture the essence of them, cementing each tale’s place in history. Here are some of our favourite racehorse films.

Phar Lap (1983)

The oldest film in our list depicts the story of the racehorse Phar Lap. A racehorse who lived for short six years, from 1926-1932. Often referred to as Australia’s greatest racehorse, although foaled in New Zealand, Phar Lap’s sudden tragic death in Mexico is a story that remains a mystery.

The film shows the story from Phar Lap’s younger days as a wart-ridden colt to his heart-breaking death. The film is set during the great depression which affected finances worldwide, but for trainer Harry Telford, Phar Lap won every race he entered. The horse gained new enemies after upsetting the odds and leaving the bookies out of pocket, one of those enemies was the Mafia.

Although it is accepted that an overdose was the cause of Phar Lap’s death, the Mafia’s interference has been nothing but a rumour. The film makes no hint to such rumours but does end the film with the mysterious death of Phar Lap.

Secretariat (2010)

A Walt Disney film, Secretariat tells the tale of the racehorse who won the first Triple Crown in 25 years during 1973. The film focuses more on the struggles of Penny Chenery, a daughter who agreed to take on the family stables after her father fell ill. She raises Secretariat with the help of Lucien Laurin and manages to navigate her way through a male-dominated industry.

In real life, the racehorse still holds a record-breaking victory at the Belmont Stakes, a feat he won by 21 lengths. Alongside this, Secretariat also won five Eclipse Awards including ‘Horse of the Year’ at the ages of two and three. The stallion died at the young age of 19 after contracting laminitis, but his name goes down in racing history, and his story is forever documented in this film.

Seabiscuit (2003)

A classic film which won the award for ‘Top Box Office Film’ and ‘Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases’. Seabiscuit the film is based on the tale of Seabiscuit the racehorse.

A feisty horse who could only be saddled by a feisty jockey, Seabiscuit and Red Pollard were the dynamic duo who took over the horse racing scene in the late 1930s. With both jockey and horse injured, the pair prepared for one last swan song before retirement – they win of course. Although the real-life Seabiscuit had minimal temperament issues, he was as successful as his onscreen counterpart.

Seabiscuit retired in 1940 and was put out to stud. In the seven years between his retirement and death, the horse was visited by over 50,000 people. Six days before his 14th birthday, the stallion died from a heart attack.

NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll

No. Horse Points
1 Flightline 351
2 Life Is Good 306
3 Olympiad 292
4 Jackie's Warrior 282
5 Clairiere 142
5 Country Grammer 142
7 Epicenter 121
8 Regal Glory 89
9 Nest 87
10 Hot Rod Charlie 48
As of August 1, 2022

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