The Top 11 Horse Racing Films

Features | 1st October 2021

Some of the most remarkable sporting stories centre around horseracing so it should be no surprise it’s a subject that’s been used for years by filmmakers to get people flocking to cinemas.

Many of the movies are based on real‐life triumphs and others are fictional thrillers full of skullduggery and intrigue.

Here we list our top 11 horse racing films in no particular order.

Horse racing films


A true story that could have come from the pen of the most imaginative Hollywood scriptwriter. The film chronicles jockey Bob Champions’ battle to overcome cancer and win the Grand National.

Together with Aldaniti, who had recovered from a career‐threatening injury, they triumphed in the great Aintree race in 1981. John Hurt played Bob in this 1984 film with supporting roles for Edward Woodward, Jan Francis and, of course, Aldaniti. A wonderful, heart‐warming film.

Champions 1984. Horse racing films


In 1930s America, champion racehorse Seabiscuit helped lift the spirits of a nation gripped by the Great Depression.

This true story tells how his struggling jockey Red Pollard, troubled owner Charles Howard and itinerant trainer Tom Smith combine to transform unmanageable and temperamental Seabiscuit into a champion.

As he wins the Santa Anita Handicap Pollard explains the horse actually helped fix the three of them. Starring Toby Maguire and Jeff Bridges, it also features top American jockey Gary Stevens in an acting role. A tremendous film.

Dream Horse

Another true tale of triumph against the odds. From humble beginnings to Welsh National glory, the film charts the story of Dream Alliance’s greatest win.

Bred by a pub barmaid and raised on a South Wales allotment, Dream Alliance overcame serious injury to win the prestigious Chepstow prize.

A documentary called Dark Horse was made about the unlikely victory but this big‐screen version was released in 2020 starring Toni Collette and Damian Lewis. A truly remarkable story.


This 2010 film chronicles one of America’s greatest horses. It starts in the early days of Secretariat’s owner/breeder Penny Chenery, who on the death of her mother, returns to the family home in Virginia to take over the stables of her ailing father despite having little experience of horseracing.

Little did she know she was about to embark on a journey that would lead to Secretariat becoming America’s first Triple Crown winner for 25 years. Starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich, the film was a big success. No wonder, it’s an excellent film.

Ride Like A Girl

Another true story lapped up by 21st century cinema. It tells the story of Michelle Payne becoming the first, and to date only, woman rider to win the Melbourne Cup.

The film took less than four years to be released from when Michelle crossed the winning line at Flemington on Prince Of Penzance in 2015.

Starring Teresa Palmer and Sam Neil, as well as Michelle’s brother Stevie Payne as himself, it was distributed worldwide and was well received.

Phar Lap

This 1983 film tells the story of New Zealand’s greatest champion. From his arrival in Australia looking like a cross between a “sheep dog and a kangaroo”, to his wins in the 1930 Melbourne Cup and ill‐fated trip to America, it charts the trials and tribulations involved with Phar Lap, who dominated Australian racing.

Some intriguing characters are brought to life in this film starring several well‐known Australian actors, including Tom Burlinson and Richard Morgan.

National Velvet

The first fictional movie on our list. It stars a young Elizabeth Taylor as 12‐year‐old schoolgirl Velvet Brown, who wins a horse in a raffle and decides to train it to win the Grand National.

She teams up with penniless drifter Mi Taylor, played by Mickey Rooney, and the pair set about getting The Pie, as the horse is named, to Aintree.

Velvet rides The Pie herself in the Grand National and they come home in front only for them to be disqualified as she falls off exhausted after passing the winning post. An iconic film that has to be high in any list of the greatest racing films.

Dead Cert

Based on the first book written by jockey‐turned‐author Dick Francis. This 1974 film adaption centres around the death of jockey Bill Davidson from a fall in a race his mount, Admiral, was expected to win.

Fellow jockey Alan York suspects foul play and sets out to bring those responsible for his friend’s death to justice, putting his own life at risk in the process. Starring Judy Dench, Dead Cert is a gripping thriller with some suitably shifty racing characters.

Dead Cert

Murphy’s Stroke

The tale of one of British racing’s most audacious gambling plots. It charts the true story of the attempt to defraud bookmakers out of more than £50,000 but ended with the ringleaders in court.

Masterminded by millionaire Irish builder Tony Murphy, the plot revolved around Gay Future’s win at Cartmel in 1974. Full of real‐life racing skulduggery, this 1980 film stars Bond actor Pierce Brosnan and Niall Tobin. It is well worth a watch.

Murphy's Stroke

The Rainbow Jacket

A charming film about a disgraced champion jockey Sam and his young protégé Georgie Crain. The pair fight out the finish of the St Leger but it’s revealed that Sam urged on Georgie in the closing stages.

He’s banned from racing but it’s still a happy ending as he retires on the proceeds of his betting to live with Georgie’s widowed mum.

This enchanting 1954 film stars an eclectic cast including Last of the Summer Wine actor Bill Owen, Carry On favourite Sid James and prolific Robert Morley. It was produced by Ealing Studios, now home to Racing TV.

Come On George!

A typical comedy farce used as a vehicle to showcase George Formby’s talents. George plays a stable lad, who is the only one able to sooth an anxious racehorse.

He gets to ride him in a race and predictably wins despite falling off half a dozen times. It was a fitting film for George, who was an apprentice jockey before becoming the UK’s highest‐paid entertainer of his time.

This 1939 film is an amusing bit of fun containing plenty of George’s ukulele playing but racing aficionados shouldn’t look to closely for factual errors!

Come on George!

Now you know your horse racing films, try our quiz on 10 horse movies.