This week we’re featuring Behind the Gate, an award-winning film that takes viewers behind the scenes for an intimate look at the world of horse racing. Narrated by Joe Pesci and featuring interviews with celebrities from Oscar de la Hoya to the top trainers in racing, the film has no shortage of star power.
Behind the Gate begins by taking viewers on a journey through horse racing history, from its origins in the 18th century to present day. The film documents the transition of “the sport of kings” from one of the most attended sports in the country to present day, where attendance is dwindling thanks to online gambling and TV.
The film also introduces viewers to the individuals who keep things running behind the scenes, featuring interviews with industry professionals from the keeper of the silks to the clockers and horse identifiers, as well as extensive footage from the backside of the track.
Throughout Behind the Gate we follow the progress of Home Journey, a filly owned by writer/producer Daryle Anne Lindley Giardino and her husband producer/director Mike Giardino, as she tackles the first races in her early career. The film also follows the career of I’ll Have Another during the big chestnut’s Triple Crown pursuit. The emotional highs and lows of horse racing are perfectly captured as the owners and trainers of these horses experience the drama with cameras rolling.
Below is our interview with writer/producer Daryle Ann Lindley Giardino:
Your love of horse racing is evident in Behind the Gate. What inspired you turn that passion into a film?
I have always had and owned horses, I mean always!! They are in my blood, they mean the world to me. I love horse racing and was sick of hearing only the negative side of such a wonderful sport. So it is a story I have wanted to tell for a long time. You can make it as negative as you want, but if as an owner you spend time with your horses in the barns, go in the mornings, see how your trainer works. You can learn a lot about the business. Learn who is an honest reputable trainer and someone you want to have your horses with. But you have to do a little investigative work. It’s like anything there is a positive but also there can be a negative. I think the owners need to own some of the responsibility and they need to be more involved and not just say, “I own a race horse”. As an owner, if you do this, I feel you can cut down on the negative side.
Your film has a host of celebrities from Joe Pesci to Oscar de la Hoya. Why do you think the sport appeals to such a broad spectrum of people?
It is such a fun, high energy sport. It can set you on top of the world, but it can also drop you to your knees. I think a lot of celebrities find a release from their day to day lives by going to and by spending time at the track.
This is a sport with great highs and lows. What have been your greatest horse racing moments? Worst moments?
There have been so many highs, but I think one of our greatest racing moments was when, Home Journey, won a big graded race. That brought tears to my eyes, a lump in my throat. I honesty thought my heart would burst, especially since we raised her and we own her Mother.
Worst moment, I hope it never happens.
Horse racing comes under a lot of fire for drugging and horses breaking down. Two horses died at Belmont this year with the world watching. In the film you talk about waiting to run your horses until they’re close to 3 years old in order to allow their legs to develop. What other actions can the sport take to lessen the frequency of incidents?
I think trainers have a big responsibility in this, as well as owners. If you are thinking about using a certain trainer and find he doesn’t have the best of reputations, simple, don’t put a horse with him. Racing Boards of each state could do more too. The tracks try and and do their share but there is room to do more there also. The tracks do make sure that the track Vet’s check the horses in the morning, and also in the paddock, and at the gate. They can scratch a horse if there is any doubt or if they feel there is a potential problem.
It is unfortunate and horrible but sometimes things happen. Like my Mother always said, ” I’ll take luck”, and luck does play into the picture. No one wants to see a horse hurt on the track, no one.
After the films release, American Pharoah won the Triple Crown. Did the hype surrounding the historic feat increase interest in the sport?
I think so, but you also have to remember, California Chrome. He has his own fan club. They are called Chromies. This horse has so many people that love him. He has won more money than any other horse in history. His trainer, Art Sherman, is a wonderful trainer, and a super guy. It was very special for me to meet California Chrome. I applaud his owners for letting him continue to run and give the fans someone to really cheer for. So many owners want to make money from the breeding end and stop racing their horses at a young age, when the horse could go on and run another year. You have no idea what it is like to be at the track when Chrome runs. We need more of this to help the sport.
The film mentions the steep decline in attendance thanks to TV coverage and online betting. In your opinion, what can be done to reverse this trend?
I think the tracks need to do more in promoting and merchandizing . Get the fans to come out advertise and make it special. Also I think the tracks need to help the novice first timer understand what is going on. Set up booths to help them. Reading a form or betting can be very confusing. If someone comes to the track for the first time and doesn’t understand what’s going on,are they going to come back?
Behind the Gate follows the progress of your filly, Home Journey. Is she still running? How did her career fare?
Oh yes, she is still running and has done very well. We have taken our time with her, which more owners should do. She is quite a character and is one of those mares that has very strong opinions. We love her very much!!
What advice do you have for people interested in becoming racehorse owners or trainers?
As an owner you really need to pay attention to your trainer,and in your selection of a trainer or trainers. Owning a race horse is so much fun, there is nothing like being in the winner circle when it is your horse that has won. But you need to spend time and do your research. Most owners don’t even know what stalls their horses are in. Get involved, it’s fun!!
Breeding is also great to do too. We have some really good mares and we enjoy watching our “babies” grow up. There is nothing like seeing a horse that you have bred and raised win a race.
As far as being a trainer, WOW, you have to really LOVE and KNOW HORSES!! It isn’t just a 9 to 5 job, and it isn’t an 8 hour a day job either. You start early, and I mean early, and leave late. Especially on race day. You need great barn help and a good assistant trainer. You have to be totally dedicated to this way of life, if you aren’t don’t even think about being a trainer.
Article by Ashley Fairfield-Remeza