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The First Saturday in May


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Editorial Reviews

The Hennegan brothers follow six trainers from varying parts of the country on their prize 2005 horses' journeys through various graded stakes to the Kentucky Derby. Both joy and heartbreak are present in this film, often shown by the same trainers and their families, concerning their horses' stances going into, coming out of, and after the Derby (if they even make it). Of 40,000 foals ever year, only 20 will make the Derby, and the Hennegan brothers follow six remarkable stories along their paths to defying the odds.

Special Features

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Product Details

  • Directors: Brad Hennegan, John Hennegan
  • Writers: Brad Hennegan, John Hennegan
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: MAINTAIN CREATIVE CO
  • DVD Release Date: December 8, 2009
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002OVB9RG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,428 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 10, 2008
Format: DVD
(Note: originally reviewed February 2008.)

The First Saturday in May (The Hennegan Brothers, 2008)

Sometimes synchronicity works in mysterious ways. The Hennegan Brothers set out to film a documentary about trainers trying to get their horses to the Kentucky Derby (of 40,000 foals born in the U.S. Every year, a maximum of twenty make it to the Derby), and they happened to choose the year that spawned one of the most-followed sports stories of the new century: Barbaro. Talk about lucking out.

Despite this being a movie about the Kentucky Derby, it's far less about the horses than it is about the humans. The movie focuses on the trainers of six horses who are on the Derby trail: Lawyer Ron (Bob Holthus), Achilles of Troy (Frank Amonte, Jr.), Brother Derek (Dan Hendricks), Jazil (Kieran McLaughlin), and Barbaro (Michael Matz). The Hennegan Brothers spend a good deal of time in the shedrow and on the backstretch with the trainers and their families, just talking horses. It's the personalities of the trainers, and the stories surrounding them, that make this movie so watchable. We do get to see highlights from the races that get the horses into the Derby, but the movie doesn't really focus on the horses until the Derby itself, at which point we get a condensed version of the post-Derby Barbaro saga that everyone who's ever watched two minutes of ESPN seemed to follow.

It's probably the faintest possible criticism, maybe even a left-handed compliment, to say that a movie should have been longer. That's the case here; as much as I enjoyed the stories behind the horses, they came in a manner that seemed a bit on the impressionist side. Great approach for making a horror movie. Not so much a documentary.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Stpierre on April 24, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
After watching this film I can see why it received multiple awards. I felt like I had an all-access pass to the barns of some of the best trainers in the business. From the backstretch barns at Aqueduct to the Derby itself, this film covers it all. Not only the stories of the horses, but the stories of the people who work with the horses - from the amazing story of Michael Matz, to the tragedy that befell Dan Hendricks, to the workmanlike Dale Romans and Frank Amote (and their sons), to the racetrack lifer Bob Holthus. I recommend this film to all who wish to see what really goes on behind the scenes on the road to the "First Saturday in May"!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By jcees on January 5, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
At the beginning of playing the dvd, I was disappointed and couldn't understand why it was rated so highly. It wasn't long before I was so glad I purchased it. It is quite an emotional and exciting ride.

I think it's a must see for all racing enthusiasts and horse lovers. I'm certainly going to watch it again and probably more than once.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ellzeena on February 27, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I've been watching the Kentucky Derby since I was ten years old. Honestly, I stopped watching the races after Barbaro's breakdown in the Preakness which is a tragic part of this documentary. There are many issues regarding the ethics of how we (humans) use and interact with other living creatures on this planet of ours, one of them being (obviously) the thoroughbred horse. If (huge "IF") these horses are "correct" in type and temperament, they WANT to run, they NEED to run, but WHY should they? Larger question than I can answer and certainly not part of the review of a DVD.

Happily (for me, anyway) Barbaro's breakdown was NOT part of this DVD; bad enough we already know the tragic outcome. What WAS part of it was a brief interlude with Barbaro (then recovering, just prior to his euthanasia) and an owner, who seemed genuinely concerned and obviously spent an enormous amount of money to save this horse's life. I wonder what happened to Achilles of Troy, who also broke down (with a torn tendon) during one of the races portrayed: did his owners KILL HIM (i.e., euthanize) because of this injury? There are many, many owners who DO just this: use the horse with obvious and ubiquitous threat of serious injury then end its life when its "racing career" is over. This is an indictment of our species, in my opinion.

If you have an interest in horse racing, then you MUST know how important the Kentucky Derby is to everyone involved. This documentary was exceptionally well done, despite the heart rending conclusion: WOULD Barbaro have achieved the Triple Crown? Jazil was a come-from-behind horse and loved the distance of the Belmont: WOULD he have beat Barbaro because of these things? We'll never know.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Aurelius Mexon on October 2, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If you want to learn about what it takes to get into the Kentucky Derby and if you enjoy watching beautiful horses move at their true speed, this movie is for you!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By senseishawna on October 26, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I loved every minute of this behind the scenes documentary. I was inspired by each trainer - their passion for the horse they represented, their ability to overcome setbacks, and for the pure joy of the sport. It is a message of hope and inspiration for all of us to live our passion in life and to be hopeful, tenacious, joyful and present in all we do.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jim Altfeld on August 24, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This was one of the four years I was doing consulting work at Santa Anita. As a result, I was able to see Brother Derek and Dan Hendricks up close and personal. I also had the fun job of spending a couple of hours with Merv Griffin sporting his lucky yellow tie, the owner of Stevie Wonder Boy, who unfortunately came up hurt that day. The tragedy of Barabaro and what the horse and owners courageously tried to do was commendable. In the long run, what was learned from that experience has been and will continue to be applied to horses since the time of Barbaro's breaking down. I think the most emotional moment for me that year was being with Laffit Pincay, Jr. when we were about to sign the Get Well Card to Barbaro from Santa Anita. At the last moment, Laffit, always a class act, decided to wait because he wanted to choose his words carefully. All told, it's a very well done video that points out the difficulties of just getting to the Derby, much less actually winning it. It also points out the frailty of the horse. And if you ever want to know what this sport means to the people involved in it, not only watch this video, but attend the HOF induction in Saratoga on the first Friday in August. It's pretty emotional.
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