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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Critic Reviews for The First Saturday in May
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.
The movie has more heart than art, but it's unfailingly genuine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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