10 of the best horse racing films
If you can’t get enough of horse racing when it’s time to unwind then there are plenty of movies which centre around the sport.
Put your feet up, grab some popcorn and get ready for the action as we pick out – in no particular order – the 10 best horse racing films to hit the big screen.
Set in Great Britain in the 1980s at the height of strike action and unemployment, a group of friends in south London gamble everything they have on buying a racehorse. The film is based on a story which featured in the book The Mumper.
A strong cast featuring the likes of Bob Hoskins, Phil Davis, Jennifer Agutter, Emily Atack and Linda Robson star in the film, which was released in 2012. Windsor and Sandown Park racecourses feature in the film which is based largely around the friendship of the group and a father-son relationship.
50 to 1
The true story of Mine That Bird, who qualified for and then won the 2009 Kentucky Derby as a huge outsider, is the focus for this American movie released in 2014. A group of unruly New Mexico cowboys buy the thoroughbred and the film follows their unlikely path to the big race despite a number of pitfalls along the way.
It is written, produced and directed by Jim Wilson, who is better known for The Bodyguard and Dances With Wolves but who also owned racehorses so wanted to make a film about one of his main passions. Former jockey Calvin Borel plays himself in the film.
This is another true story based on the life of Penny Chenery, who took over the running of her family’s thoroughbred farm when her father became ill. With the help of veteran trainer Lucien Laurin, a gifted colt – called Secretariat but also known as Big Red due to his colour – goes on to win the Triple Crown in 1973.
The film has an impressive cast featuring Diane Lane and John Malkovich and was released by Walt Disney Pictures in 2010. A strong contender as one of the best horse racing films of all time.
Let It Ride
This 1989 comedy focuses on a regular punter who is having no luck until one day his fortunes change. Richard Dreyfuss plays the lead role, who is a taxi driver, while Robbie Coltrane features as his bookmaker.
Based on the novel Good Vibes, the movie was mainly filmed at Hialeah Park Race Track just outside Miami in Florida.
Ride Like A Girl
This is the inspirational true story of Michelle Payne, who became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup in 2015. Payne is played by Teresa Palmer while Sam Neill stars as her father Paddy, who is left to bring up nine children on his own after the death of Payne’s mother.
The film focuses on many of the hurdles – pardon the pun – that Payne had to overcome before defying the odds with her famous victory in Australia’s most prestigious race.
Phar Lap is generally acknowledged to be New Zealand’s greatest ever racehorse, having been bought by unknown Australian trainer Harry Telford. From humble beginnings and failing to place in eight of his first nine starts, he won 36 of his next 41 races including the Melbourne Cup in 1930.
The 1983 film, directed by Simon Wincer, documents his rise to fame thanks to the support of a local stable boy.
The 1984 British film tells the true story of jockey Bob Champion, who is played by John Hurt. Diagnosed with testicular cancer at the height of his riding career, Champion recovered to famously win the Grand National in 1981 riding Aldaniti, who had to overcome a serious injury too.
The horse himself features in the film, while Grand National-winning jockeys John Buckingham and John Burke also appear. Many of the horse racing scenes in the movie were filmed at Chepstow.
Seabiscuit was a champion racehorse in the United States in the 1930s and this film loosely tells the story of his career, most notably his two-horse race against 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral.
Several books and films have focused on Seabiscuit’s story but the 2003 movie, starring Tobey Maguire, is the most famous and was nominated in the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards.
Elizabeth Taylor made her name in this colour film – released in 1944 – at the age of just 12. She plays a young girl called Velvet who lives in Sussex and dreams of riding in the Grand National.
She wins a horse, which she calls The Pie, in a raffle and with the help of a former jockey, they make it to the National where drama awaits.
No list of the greatest horse racing films would be complete without this 2005 American comedy about an abandoned zebra that grows up on a farm in Kentucky believing it is a racehorse. ‘Stripes’ is found by a retired horse trainer and with the help of his farmyard friends and the trainer’s daughter, the zebra enters the Kentucky Open.
Being a Disney film, there are no prizes for guessing what happens next and this is a feelgood film for all the family. If only it were true!