Itís the must-watch film for every horse-loving teenage girl, and remains so despite the fact that it first hit the screens an incredible 75 years ago. Elizabeth Taylor plays Velvet Brown, a horse-crazy 12 year old who wins a talented but spirited horse called Pie in a raffle. Mickey Rooney is a young drifter and former jockey with a tragic past. Together, they train Pie to run in the biggest race of all. If youíve somehow managed to miss this film, catch it this week in advance of this yearís Grand National. The film also spawned the eventing-themed 1970s sequel International Velvet.
The very name is enough to send shivers down the spine of any racing enthusiast, and this 1983 movie does an incredible job of capturing the drama, emotion and tragedy of the horse that was just too good. Phar Lap inspired and galvanised not just the horse betting enthusiasts but the whole Australian nation during the early years of the Great Depression, beating all comers to win 24 major races in a career that ended suddenly in his mysterious death in 1932.
Hereís something a little different from your run of the mill horse racing flick. This 2004 movie stars Viggo Mortensen in his first movie after the Lord of the Rings. There is certainly more than a little of Aragorn in his depiction of Frank Hopkins, the legendary long distance rider of the Old West. Hopkins and his mustang, Hidalgo, make the long and dangerous journey to Arabia to take on the Bedouin riders in their own back yard.
Horse racing is all about odds, and this classic story of an underdog that takes the competitors, race fans and bookmakers by surprise is a film classic. Itís another that is based on a true story, and the real Seabiscuit captured the imagination of Americans during the depression in much the same way as Phar Lap became the peopleís champion in Australia. Tobey Maguireís performance as jockey Red Pollard confirmed his status as a Hollywood A-lister.
Let it Ride
Racing films donít have to be all about tears, tragedy and adversity. We finish with a light, warm-hearted and genuinely funny comedy from 1989. You are always in safe hands with Richard Dreyfuss, and here, he plays Jay Trotter, a cab driver and keen, but unsuccessful, horse racing gambler who finds himself having the luckiest day of his life. Sure, there is nothing overly sophisticated about the plot, but if you simply want to kick back your heels and enjoy an entertaining comedy in an 80s-tastic setting, this one needs to go to the top of your list.
Published March 31, 2019