“Secretariat” movie is lacking a lot of heartOct 11th, 2010 | By TrackSide View | Category: Articles
It’s too bad that “Hollywood” has to get involved when Hollywood makes a movie. And the movie “Secretariat” is a case in point. I guess they (producers, writers and directors) think a movie won’t sell unless it is “Hollywooded-up.”
Most of the “drama” that takes place in the movie never happened, folks. In the credits at the end it says that the movie was based on Bill Nack’s “Secretariat – The Making of a Champion.” If that were the case the movie would have been a lot more factual from start to finish.
I know, this is not supposed to be a documentary, but “Secretariat” the movie could have done better by Secretariat the horse. The only thing that remotely resembles fact is that there was a horse named Secretariat and he did win the Triple Crown in 1973.
The “back drama” was totally contrived by Disney. Yes, Penny Chenery’s (Tweedy) parents died and something had to be done to pay estate taxes upon her father’s death, but it was a far cry from how it was presented in the movie.
The syndication of Secretariat for $6.08 million took only four days to accomplish and Ogden Phipps bought the first share of the 32 for the $190,000 offer price. Seth Hancock, the syndicator for Claiborne Farm, actually turned away a couple of people who were interest because there were no shares left.
There was no performance clause in the syndication contract. The only clause dealt with the horse’s fertility. Chenery did not have to keep winning races to keep the horse. The contract allowed Chenery to race Secretariat through his three-year-old year.
The Phipps/Chenery coin toss had been going on for years and it was blown out of context in the movie. If you want to know how Chenery really ended up with the yet unnamed Secretariat, read Nack’s book, chapter 6, pages 28-45.
Penny Chenery’s involvement with Meadow Stud/Stable goes back into the 1960s, not the year Secretariat was born (1970). And speaking of the birth, sorry, Penny Chenery wasn’t there. Neither was her son, Lucien Laurin or Eddie Sweet. Those present were Meadow Stud manager Howard Gentry, a friend Raymond Wood and Meadow Stud night watchman Bob Southworth. Once again, it’s in the book.
Penny Chenery campaigned Riva Ridge in 1972 and he won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes that year. It’s too bad the movie didn’t at least mention Riva Ridge. Chenery has said many times that Riva Ridge was her horse and Secretariat belonged to the people.
Ron Turcotte rode Riva Ridge in 1972 and that’s how he got the ride on Secretariat. He didn’t meet Penny Chenery at a restaurant hobbling in on a broken leg.
Frank “Pancho” Martin, trainer of Sham, and Phipps were portrayed as “evil people” in the movie, but every hero needs a villain, and Secretariat got two. Martin was a respected trainer and never would have been involved in the “press conference” scenes before the races. He had too much respect for the sport to make it look like the World Wrestling Federation. And like I said earlier, Phipps was a Secretariat supporter from day one.
Lucien Laurin is probably rolling over in his grave at the way he was portrayed. He also trained Riva Ridge the year before and he was not the flamboyant character seen in the movie.
Director Randall Wallace may have wanted to try out some new camera angles to give moviegoers a more in-the-race affect, but he would have been much better off if he would have used actually race footage from the three major races. If you want to see something that will send chills up and down your spine watch the real 1973 Belmont Stakes. It doesn’t need any help in making it more exciting.
The song, “Oh Happy Day,” which played over the Belmont stretch run in the movie, added nothing to the excitement and left me saying, “Are you kidding?”
I know I’m a racing purist and the average moviegoer will think that I’m nitpicking, but when you have the real thing, just tell the story the way happened. It was a magical time and I prefer to remember it the way it was, not the way Disney presented it.
“Secretariat” the movie won’t harm horse racing. It might even bring in some younger fans with the in-your-face attempt at drama. But what the movie didn’t show or even try to explain was why Secretariat was so great. And that is something that comes from the heart.