This horsey, 1970s-set Disney film doesn’t boast the most imaginative script and is too long and businesslike for youngsters – yet it still produces a lump in the throat. The title nods to the greatest race horse of all time, but the filmmakers choose to focus on its owner, Penny Chenery (Diane Lane), a no-nonsense housewife who, against all advice, takes charge of her late father’s failing breeding stables and is given a boost when one of her mares produces the foal that becomes Secretariat. With the help of Margo Martindale’s home help and John Malkovich’s flamboyant trainer, Penny perseveres through the ups and downs of juggling family life with big business and is eventually rewarded when her steed wins the coveted US Triple Crown.
A few unnecessary family-related diversions and the odd Disney cliché aside, what we’re offered is a simple, stirring sports drama about a housewife who enters a male-dominated world and succeeds in trouncing the opposition. Lane is excellent in the role; her likeable Grace Kelly-esque looks and demeanour sit perfectly within the film’s authentic period milieu.