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Riva Ridge was omitted from the movie. Lucien Laurin was not nearly as eccentric as he was written. Pancho Martin was not nearly as over-the-top. Ogden Phipps never made a hard offer for Secretariat after his 2-year-old season. When and where the jockeys were wearing silks was not consistent with reality. The script leads the audience to believe Sham won the 1973 Wood Memorial, not Angle Light. And a myriad of other details, large and small, were misrepresented or flat out wrong.

Yet for the purposes of Secretariat, none of this matters. Very few people in the packed house at the Baxter Avenue Theater in Louisville noticed the inaccuracies and judging from the loud ovation at the end of the film, even fewer cared.

This is a moving story of a woman who tests her own limits to save her family’s horse farm. Cliché? Of course it is. Secretariat is a sports movie above all else and this genre falls in love with the predictable underdog storyline nearly every time. To expect anything more than that would be like expecting Keith Olbermann to keynote the Republican National Convention.

So the litmus test for Secretariat should not be whether it’s historically accurate or twisted into a cliché pretzel, but instead whether the story of Penny Chenery and her super horse “Big Red” was emotionally gripping enough to bring the masses to see a movie about horse racing. With this as the measure, Disney’s newest movie is a big success.

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