The First Saturday in May
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Filmmaking duo John and Brad Hennegan travel from Arkansas to the United Arab Emirates as they follow six trainers in preparation for the most prestigious horse race on the planet in this documentary detailing the euphoria and heartbreak of the Kentucky Derby. As preparations for the 2006 Kentucky Derby get underway, six trainers and their horses -- including the legendary Barbaro -- defy all odds by qualifying for the event that has been dubbed "the most exciting two minutes in sports." Now, for the first time ever, viewers can go behind the scenes to find out exactly what these… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"The film, a behind-the-scenes look at several trainers' efforts to get their horses into fighting shape for the brief contest, lacks the depth or context to make it compelling."
‑ Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter
"The First Saturday in May digs in its heels with acute portraits of six trainers, including a paralyzed ex-cyclist in California and an MS-stricken Lexington native who works for the royal family of Dubai."
‑ Sean Howe, Entertainment Weekly
"The filmmakers emphasize the disparate personalities of the trainers, who can taste victory with every stride of the beautiful animals with whom they work, groom and feed."
‑ Michele Kenner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"From the breezy essence of Michael Matz to the frankness of Frank Amonte, each trainer has a story and ambition to get to the top. The goal of the filmmakers is not only to promote their favorite sport but to bring more people into the power of it."
‑ Adam Fendelman,
"Audiences watching the scene in which Matz coaxes his young son into petting the powerful horse will be every bit as touched emotionally as the horse on screen is physically."
‑ Chad Greene, Boxoffice Magazine
"The movie has more heart than art, but it's unfailingly genuine."
‑ John Hartl, Seattle Times
"Granted sweep and stature by the triumph of the legendary Derby winner Barbaro and the big shadow cast by his tragic destiny, pic successfully elaborates on the sorts of color pieces that traditionally precede the race on television."
‑ Variety Staff, Variety
"It sure inspired me to make plans for Emerald Downs."
‑ William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"The reason I don't love the Kentucky Derby documentary The First Saturday in May is because it's about a bunch of dull people who keep blocking our view of beautiful, fascinating horses."
‑ Chris Hewitt (St. Paul), St. Paul Pioneer Press
"...once the Hennegans begin their build to the final race, everything false into place with a quickening intensity towards 'the most exciting two minutes in sports.'"
‑ Laura Clifford, Reeling Reviews
"The video is dully and cheaply shot, but the Hennegans are lifelong racing fans with family ties to the sport, and their infatuation with the derby is infectious."
‑ J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader
"The horses' quest for the Kentucky Derby is supposed to be the big-picture idea, but there isn't a whole lot of horse footage--too much standing around in stalls waiting."
‑ Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune
"It's got its share of characters, plenty of triumphs, and a Shakespearean tragedy at its core. When it comes to drama, that's a hard combination to beat."
‑ Lewis Beale, Film Journal International
"As the filmmakers tell us at the beginning, 40,000 Thoroughbreds are born every year, but only 20 make it to the Kentucky Derby. Thus starts the movie's confusion about whether it is a documentary about the horses or their human competitors."
‑ Marjorie Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle
"While competently made and an overall enjoyable experience for those with a less-than-passing interest in racing, the film will likely be only of interest to the deep-rooted fan."
‑ Edward Havens,
More reviews for The First Saturday in May on Rotten Tomatoes