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The First Saturday in May (2008)

tomatometer

70

Average Rating: 6.6/10
Reviews Counted: 27
Fresh: 19 | Rotten: 8

This touching documentary about the horses and trainers behind the Kentucky Derby leads up to the two most exciting minutes in sports.

69

Average Rating: 6.6/10
Critic Reviews: 16
Fresh: 11 | Rotten: 5

This touching documentary about the horses and trainers behind the Kentucky Derby leads up to the two most exciting minutes in sports.

audience

85

liked it
Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 458

My Rating

Movie Info

Filmmaking duo John and Brad Hennegan travel from Arkansas to the United Arab Emirates as they follow six trainers in preparation for the most prestigious horse race on the planet in this documentary detailing the euphoria and heartbreak of the Kentucky Derby. As preparations for the 2006 Kentucky Derby get underway, six trainers and their horses -- including the legendary Barbaro -- defy all odds by qualifying for the event that has been dubbed "the most exciting two minutes in sports." Now,

Dec 8, 2009

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All Critics (27) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (19) | Rotten (8)

The film, a behind-the-scenes look at several trainers' efforts to get their horses into fighting shape for the brief contest, lacks the depth or context to make it compelling.

May 15, 2008
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie has more heart than art, but it's unfailingly genuine.

April 25, 2008 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The video is dully and cheaply shot, but the Hennegans are lifelong racing fans with family ties to the sport, and their infatuation with the derby is infectious.

April 25, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The First Saturday in May digs in its heels with acute portraits of six trainers, including a paralyzed ex-cyclist in California and an MS-stricken Lexington native who works for the royal family of Dubai.

April 24, 2008 Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Granted sweep and stature by the triumph of the legendary Derby winner Barbaro and the big shadow cast by his tragic destiny, pic successfully elaborates on the sorts of color pieces that traditionally precede the race on television.

April 22, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The horses' quest for the Kentucky Derby is supposed to be the big-picture idea, but there isn't a whole lot of horse footage--too much standing around in stalls waiting.

April 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The filmmakers emphasize the disparate personalities of the trainers, who can taste victory with every stride of the beautiful animals with whom they work, groom and feed.

April 25, 2008 Full Review Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

It sure inspired me to make plans for Emerald Downs.

April 24, 2008 Full Review Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

It's got its share of characters, plenty of triumphs, and a Shakespearean tragedy at its core. When it comes to drama, that's a hard combination to beat.

April 21, 2008 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

From the breezy essence of Michael Matz to the frankness of Frank Amonte, each trainer has a story and ambition to get to the top. The goal of the filmmakers is not only to promote their favorite sport but to bring more people into the power of it.

April 18, 2008 Full Review Source: HollywoodChicago.com
HollywoodChicago.com

The reason I don't love the Kentucky Derby documentary The First Saturday in May is because it's about a bunch of dull people who keep blocking our view of beautiful, fascinating horses.

April 18, 2008 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

As the filmmakers tell us at the beginning, 40,000 Thoroughbreds are born every year, but only 20 make it to the Kentucky Derby. Thus starts the movie's confusion about whether it is a documentary about the horses or their human competitors.

April 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Audiences watching the scene in which Matz coaxes his young son into petting the powerful horse will be every bit as touched emotionally as the horse on screen is physically.

April 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Boxoffice Magazine
Boxoffice Magazine

...once the Hennegans begin their build to the final race, everything false into place with a quickening intensity towards 'the most exciting two minutes in sports.'

April 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

While competently made and an overall enjoyable experience for those with a less-than-passing interest in racing, the film will likely be only of interest to the deep-rooted fan.

April 17, 2008 Full Review Source: FilmJerk.com
FilmJerk.com

Audience Reviews for The First Saturday in May

"The First Saturday in May" is a moderately interesting documentary that follows six horses and their trainers on the path towards the Holy Grail of racing, The Kentucky Derby. But since this was 2006 and the year of Barbaro, there were no happy endings that year. While 20 horses may seem like a lot for a race(it probably is), that is nothing compared to the amount of horses out there whose owners and trainers dream of competing at the top level. However, with the movie's eyes on the prize, there is little new insight into horse racing, outside of it being a family business, more or less.(By comparison, I learned more from an episode of "The Glades.") Admittedly, I am kicking myself for not visiting Churchill Downs when I had the chance several years back. And there are some nice stories like Dan Hendricks, one of the trainers, who was paralyzed from the chest down in an accident but continues to work and even rides occasionally.
November 20, 2010
Harlequin68
Walter M.

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