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The next equine movie should honor Canonero

Mike Vidakovich
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Mike Vidakovich
ALL |

Finally, a movie worth going to see.

Giving up a sunny, fall Saturday afternoon was a small price to pay to take in Walt Disney’s new movie about Secretariat, the spectacular racehorse, who, in 1973, became the first thoroughbred in 25 years to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes – horse racing’s triple crown.

Though I’m certainly not an expert on giving grades to what comes out of Hollywood, I wouldn’t hesitate to score high marks for this one based on my love of sports, animals and the drama of competition. It’s one the entire family can enjoy without parents having to worry about their kids seeing anyone blown up, naked or cussing up a storm. What a refreshing thought!



Actress Diane Lane is excellent in portraying Secretariat’s determined and strong-willed owner Penny (Tweedy) Chenery. Chenery takes over operations of the family stables upon the passing of her mother and the ill health of her dad.

Chenery is pressured into selling the farm, but it’s something she won’t even consider based on her love and understanding of horses and the spirit they bring to her.



When she inherits Secretariat based on the fluke of a coin toss -one that she actually loses – she is in the racing game to stay.

Secretariat’s dramatic victories over rival Sham in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness are relived, as is his track record and 31-length win in the Belmont Stakes. Those records still stand today.

ESPN listed Secretariat 35th in its 100 greatest athletes of the 20th century – the highest of three non-humans on the list. The others (Man o’ War, 84th, and Citation, 97th) were also race horses.

Watching the movie, I was reminded of another horse who made a strong bid for the triple crown just a few years before Secretariat burst onto the scene.

In 1971, a Venezuelan champion named Canonero II came from the back of the pack to shock the field and win the Kentucky Derby.

Many, most of whom had never heard of Canonero, thought the race was a fluke, given the colt’s crooked right foreleg and split right hoof. But Canonero, with his try-at-all-costs attitude, proved the experts wrong by winning the Preakness and setting up a run for glory at New York’s Belmont Park.

Canonero’s bid for greatness fell short after taking the early race lead but struggling home to fourth place. It was revealed after the race that the horse had battled a foot infection for several days and probably should not have run at all.

Canonero did come back to Belmont a year later to defeat the great champion, Riva Ridge, in a handicap race and set a track record in the process.

Following Canonero’s racing journey was when I first started to notice the horses, and I do remember watching on television that June day in ’73 when Secretariat ran “like a tremendous machine,” as CBS race announcer Chic Anderson proclaimed.

In my books, horse racing definitely has its place in the golden age of sports.

Heat’s Big 3 no sure thing

For those of you betting that the high-priced trio of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh will bring an NBA title to Miami, think again.

The Boston Celtics will add the 2011 world championship to their already vast collection. They have the inside, the outside, and the experience to win it all – and they will.

Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer for the Post Independent.


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