Horses have been part of human culture for centuries. Back in the day, they were the most important means of transport, invaluable help in working the land, so much so that the power of our cars is, to this day, expressed in a unit of measure based on their force - horsepower. Horses have been replaced by engines in time - but they didn’t disappear from our lives: they are now a source of pleasure, part of some medical therapies, and used for sport. Horse racing has probably appeared around the time horses were domesticated. Today, equestrian sports are performed at the Olympics, and traditional horse races are among the most popular event in many countries. Not to mention the extended online horse racing betting phenomenon.
Today, racehorses rarely rise to stardom - their place has been taken by football stars and tennis players. But there are many racehorses in history that rose to stardom - they became famous enough for their names and performances to be immortalized on the silver screen.
Seabiscuit was one of the most famous thoroughbreds in American history, and the top money-winning horse in the 1940s. Born during the Great Depression, he was small and often the underdog - but he beat the 1937 Triple-Crown winner War Admiral by four lengths, which turned him into a symbol of hope for the disillusioned people.
The story of Seabiscuit was adapted to the screen several times. The latest of these is the adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s non-fiction novel “Seabiscuit: An American Legend”, simply called “Seabiscuit”, with Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges, and, of course, Popcorn Deelites, the thoroughbred actor who played the title role in the movie.
Secretariat didn’t only win the American Triple Crown in 1973 but also broke the records for the fastest times in all three races, records that he holds to this day. He left an impression, showing up sporadically in pop culture to this day - like in the surreal series “BoJack Horseman”, for example. And, of course, his biographical movie. Based on William Nack's 1975 book “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion”, “Secretariat” is a 2010 biographical drama from 2010. While the movie is not entirely accurate, it was fairly successful - in its Disney-esque family-friendly way - and a nice tribute to the fastest racehorse in the history of the American Triple Crown.
Finally, let’s spare a thought on the most successful filly in Europe, the Hungarian thoroughbred Kincsem. Born in 1874, she was a weak and small horse, so much so that when she was offered up for sale as part of a package deal, she was the only one that was refused by the buyer. She was also picky - legend has it, Kincsem had her own suite that included a fellow filly and a cat, and that she refused to eat anything but grain and hay from her owner’s farm. Kincsem became the most successful thoroughbred in history, having won 54 of her 54 starts, against both male and female opponents, everywhere from Hungary to England and France. The story of Europe’s most successful filly inspired Hungarian filmmakers to make a move based on her story. Well, it didn’t turn out exactly that - Kincsem is extensively featured in the film but she is by far not in the centre of attention. In some scenes, Kincsem is even played by a stallion - so much for accuracy. But it’s a tribute, nonetheless.