There are a lot of very famous racehorses in this industry, but did you know that there are a fair few famous owners out there as well?At one time, it was absolutely the done thing to have a couple of racehorses if you were big in Hollywood.
Rita Hayworth owned racehorses, despite not being particularly keen on either horses or racing. Apparently she was influenced by her husband – Prince Aly Khan who was very involved in horse racing. France was the location for several wins for her filly Double Rose, who also came second in the 1949 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Gregory Peck and Dean Martin have both been spotted at the Grand National, with Peck’s horse, Different Class coming in third in 1968. Mr Peck was there again in 1997, when a bomb scare forced officials to postpone the race for 48 hours and he was left without a hotel room, everywhere was sold out! A Liverpudlian family took pity on him and offered their spare bedroom, and that’s where he stayed, until the race was run.
And there is absolutely no truth in the scurrilous allegation that Dean Martin was the inspiration for the now famed ‘Aintree Bracelet’, without which it is impossible to get a decent scotch on race days. Apparently he was drinking apple juice when he was on stage. The whole time… No, honestly, he was!
Bing Crosby was another film star with a penchant for horses. In fact, he was so keen on the gee-gees that he built the Del Mar racetrack in California with Pat O’Brien and Paramount Studios. Since it’s opening in 1937 it has played host to many of Hollywood’s finest, Ava Gardner and Mickey Rooney to name but two.
Not far from Del Mar is Hollywood Park, another racetrack with a superstar heritage. Bing was a shareholder there, alongside Walt Disney and Al Jolson. I would imagine that shareholder meetings must have been more interesting than your average AGM.
Apparently Spencer Tracey and Errol Flynn were big owners too. You can only imagine the scene that would play out if their horses had come up against each other.
Even those stars that didn’t actually OWN horses still came along for the ride and at Santa Anita Park (another iconic Californian race track) box holders in the early years included such names as Frank Capra, Fred Astaire, Jack Benny, Walt Disney and Cecil B. de Mille.
Albert Broccoli was another big racehorse fan; he and his wife loved their horses and had some success, with one of their horses ‘Brocco’ winning the Juvenile Breeders Race in 1993 and going on to come fourth in the Kentucky Derby.
Albert’s enthusiasm for horses eventually spread into his work; the James Bond movie ‘View to a Kill’ was partly filmed at Ascot. There, typically, James Bond (Played by Roger Moore) won big when he bet on the villain’s horse, Pegasus. The film went on to feature a spectacular chase using real horsepower rather than the mechanical kind, with James B gallantly staying on a crazed horse called Inferno while taking on all-comers with a riding crop. Marvellous stuff.
These days racing is still a big deal with movers and shakers in the industry. Whoopi Goldberg, Cybill Shepard, Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Joe Pesci are all aficionados and are regularly seen at Santa Anita during the racing season. And representatives from the new guard have attended the Kentucky Derby; Chloe Sevigny, Thora Birch and Melissa Joan Hart have all shown their famous faces there.
In fact, Tony Bennett evidently enjoyed going to the Kentucky Derby so much that in 2001 he actually painted the poster images for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. Talented chappie that he is.
You don’t HAVE to be a film star to enjoy going to the races… but it might come in handy when that livery bill comes in.
By Allison Bairstow