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In the wacky world of horse films, 'Secretariat' runs (relatively) close to ...

As Disney's "Secretariat" gallops into theaters this weekend, the film provides some fodder for horse racing enthusiasts to nitpick. Many movies based on real events, it seems, distort at least some of the story under the imprimatur of dramatic license, but racing movies about real horses often seem to be at the front of that pack.

"Phar Lap," a 1983 Australian picture about a tragic wonder horse from Down Under, was a notable exception -- one reason it is still considered one of the best racing films ever made.

On the other hand, both Seabiscuit movies played with the truth. "The Story of Seabiscuit" (1949) is perhaps the worst horse movie ever made. Its story is virtually cut from whole cloth, with Barry Fitzgerald as a trainer mumbling profundities and Shirley Temple trying to keep up with a badly done Irish accent. The 2003 film "Seabiscuit," which was nominated for a best picture Oscar, contained inaccuracies; it said, for instance, that Seabiscuit arch-rival War Admiral was a much bigger horse, when in reality the two were about the same size.

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