Review: Horse racing doc ‘Chasing the Win’ shows it’s all about heart in the end

Trainer Carl O'Callaghan gives Kinsale King a pint of Guinness beer in the documentary "Chasing the Win."
Trainer Carl O’Callaghan gives Kinsale King a pint of Guinness beer in the documentary “Chasing the Win.”
(Indie Rights)

The serviceable, behind-the-scenes documentary “Chasing the Win” follows a $20,000 Kentucky-bred gelding called Kinsale King as it competed in high-stakes international events against horses that cost up to 500 times more at auction. Directed by Laura Sheehy (whose father, Patrick Sheehy, is the horse’s pragmatist owner) and Chris Ghelfi, the film provides an insider’s look at the quicksilver fortunes of King and his trainer, a quirky young Irishman named Carl O’Callaghan, as they rose to unexpected heights during the 2009-2011 racing seasons.

Fueled by eggs, hay and four pints of Guinness per day, Kinsale King trained and raced across three continents at such world-famous courses as Churchill Downs, Ascot in Britain and Dubai’s Meydan. Early success brought high expectations and the film emphasizes how difficult (not to mention expensive) it is to stay on top.

There was a bit of Irish luck in the U.S.-based Sheehy discovering — and taking a chance on — his countryman O’Callaghan in Southern California. Though not of high breeding, King had talent, and it turned out O’Callaghan was just the horseman to bring it out.

The film lags in the backstretch but the filmmakers make good use of Patrick Sheehy’s brother Denis, a natural skeptic and sage. Though practically everyone involved invokes a winning-is-everything sentiment, it’s clearly not entirely true. O’Callaghan and the Sheehys obviously care deeply for the animals they train and the film’s ending will leave a lump in the throat of even the most cynical viewer.



‘Chasing the Win’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes

Playing: Starts Aug. 31, Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood