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Secretariat Subtexts

Andrew O’Herir enjoyed “Secretariat,” but that:

… doesn’t stop me from believing that in its totality “Secretariat” is a work of creepy, half-hilarious master-race propaganda almost worthy of Leni Riefenstahl, and all the more effective because it presents as a family-friendly yarn about a nice lady and her horse.

His review drew a reply from Roger Ebert, who gave “Secretariat” four stars:

I myself have written insane reviews. It happens.

O’Herir’s political reading is outlandish, Ebert’s lengthy response indignant. And personal? The critic is a great friend of Secretariat biographer Bill Nack.

10/10/10 Update: O’Herir responds. He was being intentionally outrageous!

The Bright Side

Jeremy Plonk points out that, for a game supposedly in decline, there’s a lot of horse racing on newsstands, TV, and the big screen:

Horse racing has done pretty well in the mainstream for a sport on life support, if you ask me. What other sporting venture can claim box office titles like “Seabiscuit,” “Dreamer,” “Racing Stripes,” “First Saturday in May” and “Secretariat” since just 2003? These films came long after the glory years when horse racing, college football and boxing owned the mainstream sporting consciousness.

And Plonk’s inventory is hardly exhaustive. He leaves off the late night appearances of jockeys Joe Talamo and Calvin Borel, the Vogue appearances of Rachel Alexandra and rider Chantal Sutherland, the recent W photo shoot of Zenyatta, the Sports Illustrated cover featuring Mine That Bird …

With all the consciousness in the culture at large, maybe the racing audience numbers cited by NTRA consultant SocialSphere aren’t so “Potemkin” after all.

Taking Liberties

Steve Haskin catalogs the various solecisms of “Secretariat,” including:

Penny, Lucien, and groom Eddie Sweat being in the stall for Secretariat’s birth was way too Hollywood and over the top, and was too far removed from reality for even a Disney movie; as was the jockeys for Secretariat’s first race at (“Aqueduct”) mounting and dismounting their horses in the backstretch (filmed at Evangeline Downs), directly outside the barn. That’s something you’d see in a low budget 1930’s movie. Also, the shot of Penny, Lucien, and Sweat dancing and hip-bumping and Penny washing down Secretariat with no one holding the horse were a bit too much, as was Eddie Sweat standing on the track on the eve of the big race, shouting to the heavens about what the world was about to see.

On the positive side: The “kinetic” racing scenes draw Haskin’s raves.

Whenever, Whatever

Jerry Bossert rants about NYRA’s delayed photo finish uploads:

The only problem is it’s not on demand. It’s whenever the Teletimer operator wants to put the picture on the Web. On closing day at Saratoga, there was a three-horse photo separating Frivolous Buck, Gitchee Goomie and Tutti Va Bene for first, second and third place in the eighth race. The photo never made it up until after the 11th and final race of the card, after plenty fans from across the country called wanting to see it. The operator had a cavalier attitude when asked about it, saying he doesn’t get paid extra for it. This is why this sport is dying. The people in charge don’t care …

Related: John Pricci elaborates on the recent tensions between NYRA and the racing media, mentioned by Nick Kling at the close of Saratoga. Nothing negative, please. “Given the prevailing philosophy at the new NYRA,” writes Pricci, “there is no need for a press office, only a marketing department.”

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