Secretariat - Maybe Not 100% Accurate, But Thank God it Isn't

It has been fun reading a lot of the chatter on chat boards, blogs and industry sites on the movie Secretariat. As usual, we as insiders will have our gripes; after all, some people going to the movie remember where they went for breakfast the morning of the Belmont, and have memorized the morning lines. None of these type movies are for "us", they are made to sell tickets because people who make them want money. In Days of Thunder when Tom Cruise lapped the field in the last lap to win a big race, NASCAR fans cringed, and we will too, no doubt with this movie.

One thing that strikes me with horse racing movies is that it is almost impossible to tell a true story without jazzing it up. Thoroughbred yearling buyers and owners are for the most part loaded (although if you hear some owners speak, it is like they are all destitute and ready to rob a 7-11 to feed the kids) and it does not exactly make for a good underdog story.

Really, what kind of stories do we have in thoroughbred racing that a) can be a movie and b) do not have to have the facts 'changed'?

Let's try some plotlines:
  • The Rachel Alexandra Story - Wine magnate Jess Jackson buys filly for a reported $10 million, or about 0.04% of his entire net worth. The gamble pays off, as his supermare wins the Preakness, Haskell and Woodward against all odds, however later on she is retired and does not make the whole ten million back. Because of it, Jess is only super-rich, instead of slightly more super-rich.
  • Sheikh Mo's Money - The rags to riches story about horse racing dude Sheikh Mo, who was born really rich, but whose family and life hangs on the fluctuations with the price of oil. This story focuses on his oil hedging book whereby if he makes a mistake he will only have $30 million to spend on yearlings instead of $40 million. As a sub-plot, his real estate empire takes a hit as interest rates go up which glues the viewer to the screen wondering if it is caviar or fois gras for dinner, or if he has to go through the gut-wrenching decision to downgrade his personal jet from a 747 to an Airbus. It's a true popcorn cruncher.
  • Zenyatta - How Itunes Almost Made Me Not Own Her - This is a story for the times. Jerry Moss, explains how the changing world of music almost made him not spend the $60k on Zenyatta. With Itunes and other digital fare dominating the scene, people like Jerry now make less money than they used to. The movie shows a parallel universe where he instead buys a few five claimers at Mountaineer, and he and Sting fill in for Nancy and Mark on the Mountain's simulcast show. The sub-plot is especially interesting - Andrew Beyer is the one who ends up with Zenyatta, and she goes 19 for 19, and makes her six-plus million. It showcases his internal struggle about owning and taking purse checks from what he considers a slow horse with sub-par speed figures.
So, with Secretariat - The Movie, I am not looking at it for historical fact, or accuracy. It's a horse racing movie and I will watch it and enjoy it knowing that going in.


St.Paddy said...

I like the plots. A screenwriters job for you.

Just one thing how do you downgrade from a 747 rustbucket to a shiny new airbus?

Pull the Pocket said...

Good catch!

In my best Star Trek impersonation - I'm a horseplayer not a pilot dammit :)


That Blog Guy said...

While I saw Seabiscuit, I am passing on this movie as I have no interest. I remember Secretariat, I don't need to see the movie to remember it.

Gosh, I am old.

jamesp said...

Dear Pull the Pocket,

Haven't seen the movie yet, but I am an avid Pull the Pocket reader and here are a couple of comments on some recent topics that have appeared here:

Last week's Breeders Crown races were interesting to watch in the same way that the baseball playoffs are interesting to watch, simply from a fan's standpoint. But I disagree wholeheartedly that it was a great night for bettors. I don't know what Kimelman was trying to sell by saying it was. As far as betting goes, it sucked. Pocono is purely a minor league player and its management certainly reflected as much on Breeders Crown night.

One single Pick 4 and a Pick 6 on the whole card? NO Pick 3's, not a single one? One early and one late Daily Double, five hours apart? What is this, 1962?

For those of us that prefer Pick 3's - and Daily Doubles to back them up - and who consider Pick 6's purely sucker bets, this was a terrible card on what should have been a huge handle night. You would never in a hundred years see this at the Meadowlands, Mohawk or Woodbine.

Pocono always was a backwater track whose racing only still exists because of the adjacent casino. That a track like this thrives while the Meadowlands struggles is damn shame.

And speaking of small, inconsequential tracks: Takeout reduction or no takeout reduction, I will not bet a nickel on any race at Tioga Downs. I understand your point that seeing a track reduce takeout is a commendable thing, but most of the Tioga purses - except for one or two races on the weekend - are $5,000 or less. Some are as low as $2,000. The winner's share of such purses (a couple of thousand dollars) is therefore less than what it costs to keep a horse in training these days. How, then, can these races be on the up and up?

This is, of course, my humble opinion. But if cheating has been shown - and widely rumored - to take place at the major harness tracks, how on God's green earth would the Tioga's of the harness world be considered honest players
Plus, Tioga allows a scoundrel like Howard Parker to race. The Meadows allows Eric Ledford. Sorry, I can't wager my hard-earned money on any race which is tainted just by the presence of such people.

That a track like Pocono gets to host on the top 2 or 3 racing cards of the year speaks volumes about the sad state of harness racing these days. Thanks for letting me air these views and good luck.

Sunny Jim
New Jersey

Pull the Pocket said...

Thanks for the post Sunny. Always an interesting read!!


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