The First Saturday in May

Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 26


Audience Score

User Ratings: 462
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The First Saturday in May Photos

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, for the first time ever, viewers can go behind the scenes to find out exactly what these dedicated horsemen go through as they prepare to compete in the ultimate equestrian event.

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Critic Reviews for The First Saturday in May

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (18) | 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
  • The movie has more heart than art, but it's unfailingly genuine.

    Apr 25, 2008 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • 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.

    Apr 25, 2008 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Apr 24, 2008 | Rating: B | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Apr 22, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top 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.

    Apr 18, 2008 | Rating: 2/4

Audience Reviews for The First Saturday in May

  • Nov 20, 2010
    "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.
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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