The First Saturday in May (2008)



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

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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.
PG-13 (for brief strong language)
Documentary , Sports & Fitness
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Critic Reviews for The First Saturday in May

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (16)

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

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

April 25, 2008
Seattle Times
Top 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.

Full Review… | April 25, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top 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.

Full Review… | April 24, 2008
Entertainment Weekly
Top 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.

Full Review… | April 22, 2008
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.

April 18, 2008
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

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.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

So before watching this documentary I didn't really know anything about the Kentucky Derby. I watched about the first half really interested but then it just moved so slowly that I couldn't stay awake. I'm not really one to fall asleep during movies, but there was just not enough going on to keep my attention. I'm not a huge fan of documentaries in general, but this is the first one where I didn't really care about what happened at the end. Sorry Hennegan brothers! You just didn't win me over with this one.

Kristi Westcoat
Kristi Westcoat

interesting look at diverse bunch of people (owners, jockeys, trainers) all chasing their dream to be in Kentucky Derby. A little sappy on Barbaro at the end but you do feel how important the Derby is and what it means to be in it

Bradley Smith
Bradley Smith

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