Some of the finest stewards connected to the Thoroughbred industry sat before the unblinking lens of documentary filmmakers recently to offer insight and commentary on the issues surrounding unwanted ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds in America.
Hall of Fame jockey and four-time Eclipse Award winner Pat Day spoke of the heartbreak that comes when he imagines a horse who is forgotten in a field, left to “die on the vine.”
The dawning awareness that ex-racehorses can go on to do many useful things, serving as competitive athletes, or best friend to riders of all levels, infuses the film with hope, even as it sheds light on the grim realities of horse slaughter.
Perhaps one of the most hopeful signs is the unabashed enthusiasm with which the documentary film project has been embraced by top-tier industry professions, says Cody Joel, director of the film, Back on Track.
“Time and time again, we’re hearing from people who tell us it’s about time a film project like this was done,” he says, noting that the film crew was on its way to interview Kentucky Derby winning trainer Graham Motion, and Kim Zito, wife of Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito.
Joel and film producer Kara Colvin, who conceived the idea for the film, have crisscrossed Kentucky since January, filming horses and influential industry officials.
“The idea for the film dawned on me at 2 in the morning while I was brainstorming ideas for my documentary filmmaking class,” Colvin says. She and Joel are studying film at Savannah College of Art and Design.
“It’s such a big issue in the Thoroughbred world, and film is the most influential medium there is. I thought if we could get a few dedicated people, we could make something really important.”
It appears many agree with the intrepid young filmmakers.
So far, the following interview subjects have gone on camera: Graham Motion, (Trainer, Animal Kingdom); Case Clay (President, Three Chimneys Farm); Jen Roytz (Communications Director, Three Chimneys Farm); Lisa Molloy (Facilities Manager, New Vocations Ky); Kim Vito, wife of Nick Zito; Melissa Recknor (Volunteer and Adoption Coordinator, Makers Mark Secretariat Center); Pay Day (Hall of Fame Jockey).
And Michael Blowen, president of Old Friends Kentucky, and Charles and Amanda Ames of CANTER Kentucky have agreed to interviews.
“More and more people are reaching out to us!” Joel says. “We’ve been amazed at how excited people have been about this project; we have to keep adding locations to our destination map!”
As buzz for the project grows, so do the chances that the piece may be aired in several media markets.
Already, Australian Racing television has indicated they will broadcast the film, and the duo will also pitch the piece to HRTV, and a condensed version will be submitted to film festivals. Larger goals include consideration by the CBS affiliate in Kentucky, and PBS, Colvin says.
Thrilled as they are with the response, theirs is not a quest for accolades and publicity. Rather, for Joel, a Kentucky native, and Colvin, a longtime convert to the joys of Thoroughbred ownership, this project is a venture from the heart, one they hope will help horses.
“The main objective of our film is to motivate the public to adopt these horses,” says Colvin, owner of ex-racehorse JW’s Best Bet. Her horse has been with her since she was 13, carrying her across eventing fields, bravely and cheerfully. Now that he is older, he is a beloved pasture friend who deeply inspired her movie idea.
And Joel hopes the film will raise awareness without casting aspersions.
“There is no ‘bad guy’ in this film. Our goal is to tell a positive story about all of the good things going on in the Thoroughbred industry that help the horses.”