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File:Secretariat 8133.jpg

 In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground ...

Secretariat is a 2010 film about the eponymous chestnut racehorse (by Bold Ruler out of Somethingroyal), who rose out of the ashes of a fallen-from-grace racing stable to bring home the first Triple Crown trophy in twenty-five years with a thirty-one length victory in the Belmont and who destroyed every relevant race and track record on the books as he did so. The reason for this is one woman: his owner Penny Chenery, daughter of the aging, frail owner of Meadow Stables. Along with trainer Lucien Laurin, groom Eddie Sweat, and jockey Ron Turcotte, Chenery guided Secretariat through his two- and three-year-old seasons and produced arguably the greatest American racehorse to ever live.

The film stars Diane Lane as Penny Chenery and John Malkovich as Lucien Laurin.

This movie contains examples of:

  • All Girls Like Ponies: Diane Lane, who portrays Penny in the movie, admitted in an interview that this was part of why she took the part.
  • Artistic License: There is absolutely no mention of Riva Ridge, winner of the 1972 Derby and Belmont and Secretariat's stablemate, who saved Meadow Stables the year before Secretariat made his Triple Crown bid. This is because it's more exciting with everything riding on Secretariat's success.
  • As the Good Book Says...: The movie opens with a rather relevant quote from the book of Job.
  • Automaton Horse: Actually, invoked by announcer Chic Anderson's immortal line: "He is moving like a TREMENDOUS machine!"
  • Based On The Impossible True Story: While dramatic license was taken with some elements, including leaving out Chenery's sister Margaret and Secretariat's stablemate Riva Ridge, this film sharply averts this trope. Racing fans will check and the filmmakers knew this, right down to recreating Secretariat's famous star-and-stripe markings.
  • Berserk Button: Do not tell Penny Chenery to keep her nose out of racing because it's "none of [her] business," and don't tell her to Stay in the Kitchen. She will do neither, and then she will have her horse beat the pants off yours.
    • Do not imply that Secretariat is anything less than perfection around Ron Turcotte. Ever.
  • Cast the Expert: Ron Turcotte was played by a jockey named Otto Thorwarth
  • Cool Horse: In racing, it doesn't get much cooler.
  • Cliché Storm: Many critics have pointed out that despite this, the movie still manages to do things right.
    • And yet many common sports-movie cliches are missing; Secretariat was no underdog going into the Belmont, which means no Miracle Rally, there is no tacked-on love story, etc. Roger Ebert points this out in his four-star review of the film.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: Secretariat's Belmont Stakes race. Full stop.
    • What made it even more awesome is he was still accelerating when he crossed the finish line.
  • Crowning Moment of Funny: As Secretariat is galloping down the home stretch in the process of setting an as-yet-untouched race and track record:

 Lucien Laurin: Ronnie, don't fall off!!

 Penny: Lucien. You know you're absolutely the best trainer I could have ever...

Lucien: You're the best owner I ever saw.

  • Curb Stomp Battle: The Belmont, obviously. He set a record of 2:24 flat for the mile-and-a-half on dirt; to this day no horse has broken 2:25, anywhere, ever. His 31-length victory is the largest winning margin in the history of American thoroughbred racing.[1]
  • Determinator: Penny Chenery.

 Reporter: The only thing she hates worse than talking about herself is backing down.

  • Foregone Conclusion: We all know precisely how things turn out. That this film can still have us white-knuckled on the edge of our seats is a true testament to the filmmakers and actors alike.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The owners and jockey of Sham.
  • Miracle Rally: Averted and averted hard. Secretariat was the odds-on favorite going into the Belmont. (If you'd bet $10 on Secretariat to win, you'd have walked away only $1 richer.) What nobody expected, of course, was just how thoroughly he would dominate the field. Seriously - nobody saw that coming. In fact, as seen in the film, most people were worried that Sham was pushing Secretariat too fast too early - the quarter-mile speeds for that Belmont are among the fastest on record. Turcotte made the counterintuitive but brilliant decision to stop holding Secretariat back, and as soon as he did, Secretariat left Sham in the dust.
    • Although it looks like it's played straight in the races themselves, with Red's habit of hanging out in the rear for the first two-thirds of the race.

 Penny: Let him run, Ronnie! Let him run!

  • Narm: For some, the conclusion of the Belmont Stakes race almost loses all its power and awe when the music suddenly chimes in with Oh Happy Day. It works better in a movie theater with Dolby surround sound, and when you remember that it's Oh Happy Day playing when Penny gets her faith back, decides to bet the farm on Secretariat, and commits herself to the Triple Crown.

  "HEY KENTUCKY! BIG RED ATE HIS BREAKFAST THIS MORNING! GET PREPARED TO SEE SOMETHING YOU AIN'T EVEN SEEN BEFORE!!"

  • Nice Hat: To Canadian audiences at least, Lucien Laurin with his crazy quilt hats looks like nothing less than the Don Cherry of horse racing.
  • Obviously Evil: Sham's owner.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Penny is at Meadow Stable (in Virginia) when she decides to drop in on Bull Hancock having lunch at his club. Cut to Penny crashing the all-male domain. In Kentucky. Hours away. With no explanation of how she got there. (The movie may intend to imply this wasn't the same day, but the end result feels like she beamed there instantly.)
  • Oh Crap: The expression on Sham's owner's face as Secretariat decides to stop cruising and really run can only be described as this.

 Pancho Martin: That's impossible!

    • Many of the reporters had this feeling when they saw the pace Secretariat was setting from the beginning of the Belmont.
  • Orange-Blue Contrast: Though not as bad as some action movies, the blues in this movie are very blue, and the oranges are very orange.
  • Oscar Bait: Someone just give Diane Lane the nomination already, okay?
  • Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: The Kentucky Derby.

 Ronnie Turcotte: I'm sick of this dirt. Let's get rollin'!

  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Quite a few things are tweaked, but Secretariat's Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes are done full justice.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: The rest of Lucien Laurin outfit is screaming loud as well.
  • Real Person Cameo: The real-life Penny Chenery, still alive and kicking at eighty-eight, is in the crowd at the Belmont, right next to the film versions of Secretariat's team.
  • Rearing Horse: Played for dramatic effect in the trailer, although the horse is not actually Secretariat.
  • Shown Their Work
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Penny naturally turns this into You Go, Girl!.
  • Tear Jerker: Some part of this film is going to make you cry, whether it's Chenery falling apart listening to her daughter sing or Secretariat's near-miraculous Belmont finish.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: There's hints that Laurin has - well, possibly more-than-friendly feelings for Penny Chenery; particularly implied in the scene at the Belmont Ball.
  • Worthy Opponent: In real life, Sham was this; the film chose to play up his owner and rider as jerks instead.

Notes

  1. Technically, Man o' War set that record when he beat Hoodwink by 100 lengths in the Lawrence Realization Stakes, but Hoodwink was a last-ditch competitor because nobody wanted to race against him. Secretariat's winning margin is the largest between two relatively competitive horses.
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