The Gallop Report

A Quarter Horse Wins the Triple Crown?

August 17, 2010

It only happens in the movies … but it sure makes for a good story.

We doubt this is Copper Locks (he only appeared in selected racing scenes), but he's supposed to look just like this! Photo credit: John Bramley/Disney Enterprises Inc.

The movie “Secretariat” won’t open until early October, so don’t pop the popcorn quite yet. But from all reports, it’s a movie that horse lovers won’t want to miss.

Now, you might be wondering why, exactly, a blog published by the American Quarter Horse Association is crowing about a Thoroughbred movie. Secretariat, of course, is the 1973 Triple Crown winner who was owned by Penny Chenery, a woman who took over her father’s stable and had to fight for respect in the male-dominated industry of the 1970s.

AQHA member Rusty Hendrickson can help explain. He served as head wrangler on the movie, which means that he provided horses and then managed them on-set.

“A good horse movie can sort of transcend the breeds,” Rusty says in a recent interview with America’s Horse. “I love Quarter Horses; that’s my favorite. But it’s sometimes fun to tell a story when it’s just a horse story.”

And Reason No. 2? There are a number of American Quarter Horses in the movie, including one of the horses who played Secretariat. Rusty was looking for a horse with enough speed to zip around a pack of racehorses – and he knew for that quick burst of speed, he’d better look for a Quarter Horse.

While filming in Louisiana, he was directed to Alvin “Bubba” Brossette, who just happened to have a speedy sorrel gelding with some white on him – similar enough to Secretariat that the horsey hair and makeup artists could easily transform him into a look-alike.

If you’re a racing fan, you’ve probably already recognized Bubba’s name. He’s AQHA’s all-time leading jockey by number of wins, and he has successfully segued into a racehorse trainer. So when he tells you that a horse “showed a little talent,” he knows what he’s talking about.

That’s how he described Copper Locks, a 4-year-old gelding he bred, raised and was racing in Louisiana.

“He looked like he was going to like a little more distance. So (in September), we ran him in an 870(-yard race at Evangeline Downs), and he broke his maiden. Right at the time, they were hunting a horse to play in ‘Secretariat,’ and I sold him.”

There were six or seven horses used to portray Secretariat, and Copper Locks isn’t one of the primary stars … he was used only in some of the racing scenes where his speed was called upon. But Bubba says he’s anxious to see the movie, to see if he can pick out his horse.

Copper Locks was joined on the set by several other American Quarter Horses that Rusty owns. Plumb Twisted, a bay son of the nice reining horse Dun It With A Twist, and Drifts Wood, a black Driftwood- and Joe Hancock-bred gelding, are two of the pony horses used in the film.

If you can’t quite wait until October to get into the “Secretariat” spirit, you’ve got some options. Disney has a “Secretariat” website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

P.S. If you’re not already there, you can also follow AQHA on Facebook! Plus, we have a couple of Twitter accounts — for AQHA and America’s Horse. Don’t miss out on the fun!

Holly Clanahan

Holly Clanahan
Editor, America's Horse magazine