The Reel Review
This Disney film is about horse racing’s fastest and most famous triple crown winner, who in 1973 became the first Triple Crown champion in 25 years, setting records in all three races, two of which (the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes) STILL stand today. Secretariat is the rousing story of the greatest racehorse that ever lived and the incredibly smart and brave woman who had faith in him when none of the men in her family did.
Sporting a perfectly coiffed, big blond wig, Diane Lane is spot on as Penny Chenery, the strong-willed daughter of an ailing Virginia horse farm owner (Scott Glenn) who literally bets the farm on Secretariat after winning him in a coin toss. The cast is rounded out by equally strong performances from John Malkovich as trainer Lucien Laurin, Nelson Ellis (HBO’s True Blood) as groom Eddie Sweat and Margo Martindale (Million Dollar Baby) as Penny’s assistant, Elizabeth Ham.
Director Randall Wallace (We Were Soldiers, Heaven Is For Real) gives us an efficient, old fashioned tale that features a compelling story, richly-drawn characters, and thrilling races. It is absolutely beautiful. I dare you not to get a lump in your throat watching the spectacular finale, even though you know exactly beforehand how it ends.
• Secretariat’s record-winning margin at the Belmont Stakes – a shocking 31 lengths – and winning time of 2:24 – is considered one of the greatest horseraces in history.
• Penny Chenery, who was on-set for most of the filming of Secretariat, had a cameo appearance in the film’s big finale. Penny died in 2017 at the age of 95.
• The words Diane Lane speaks at the end of the film are from the Book of Job, Chapter 39, when God is describing horses. Verse 22: “It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; it does not shy away from the sword.” Verse 24: “In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground; it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.”