Greatest classic racehorse movies [SLIDESHOW]

Arguably the most interesting part of the Kentucky Derby coverage, if you can hear the talking heads in your julep-induced haze, are the backstories of the horses. What their weird names mean, how the owners got them and what the trainers have done before the big race are all crucial to understanding the veritable melee that is the derby.

Nothing is better than an underdog story, however, and every horse movie seems to have that motivational theme in spades. It’s impossible not to become invested in great movies about horse racing and cheer during the beautiful, culminating scenes in which all the dreams of the characters are realized.

Here are some of the top picks for movies to watch to get you into the derby spirit.

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  • Shergar is not exactly a warm and fuzzy story, although the movie attempts to change the truth. It centers on a champion racehorse that was kidnapped by the IRA to get money to buy weapons. In the movie the horse is rescued, however in real life it was never found.
  • National Velvet, starring Elizabeth Taylor as a young girl named Velvet, tells the story of a horse won in a raffle. Taylor’s character convinces a trainer to prepare it for a steeplechase, but the jockey refuses to ride on race day, leaving Velvet no choice but to take the reins herself.
  • Hidalgo is a classic epic about an American cowboy in 1890 who is invited to enter an Arabian horse race across the Sahara. The craggy-faced Viggo Mortensen, and his mustang, was an obvious pick for a western hero all Americans can root for.
  • The Black Stallion is tear-jerking as well as masterfully done, thanks to legend Francis Ford Coppola acting as executive producer. The story is about bonding when a boy is stranded on an island with a horse who turns out to be a perfect racing horse when they are rescued.
  • Is there anything more touching than a cute little girl, played by Dakota Fanning of course, saving an injured horse only to nurse it back to health and racing shape? “Dreamer: Inspired by a true story” was a success in 2005 based on the true story of Mariah’s Storm.
  • Secretariat was finally released 37 years after the famous horse won the triple crown and features Diane Lane as Secretariat's owner. The movie shows Diane Lane’s character dominating the almost exclusively male world of horse racing while the horse captured the attention of the nation.
  • Seabiscuit is a truly quintessential underdog story, and when it comes to horse racing, the best backstories make the best bets. The race scenes and the authenticity of the story make this movie one of the top horse racing movies ever.

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