Sarafan and Fighting Furrari, one of the primary horses who played Seabiscuit in the movie, took turns portraying the racehorse Moonshine in an episode slated to air Aug. 12. The racetrack sequences were filmed at Santa Anita May 19-20. Benjamin Bratt of “Law & Order” fame plays the title character, William Banks, who helps people get clean of their addictions. In this case it’s a jockey named Jimmy Alvarez, played by James Madio.
The impetus for a racing-related episode came from Steve Boyum, who directed it, and executive producer and co-writer Jonathan Prince. Both are racing fans.
“I was raised in the Los Angeles area, and my dad would take me to the races as a small child,” said Boyum, who has worked extensively as a director, stunt coordinator, and stuntman. “Santa Anita was like a shrine to my childhood, and I always thought that I would love to shoot something there.”
Prince began his love affair with the sport at Hollywood Park, where he accompanied his grandfather. Later, he rode horses and still enjoys following the races.
“We were filming the episode during Big Brown’s Triple Crown bid,” Prince said. “We were heartbroken that he didn’t win.”
Boyum filmed several racing scenes at Santa Anita, as well as other shots of horses in and around the racetrack. Trainers Matt Chew and Keith Craigmyle, who both worked on “Seabiscuit,” provided many of the horses.
Chew worked with seven horses, six of them former racehorses that included Sarafan and Fighting Furrari. Blacksmith Robert Guest, who galloped Sarafan during his racing days, now owns the retired gelding. Fighting Furrari regularly meets crowds in his role as Seabiscuit during Santa Anita’s weekend tram tours and during the race meetings.
Sarafan may be one of the richest horses ever to work in television, not to mention one of the most traveled. The 11-year-old son of Lear Fan--Saraa Ree, by Caro, was bred in Kentucky and in the course of his eight-year racing career competed in England, Ireland, the U.S., Japan, Hong Kong, and Dubai while earning $2,621,881.
Trained most of that time by Neil Drysdale and owned by Gary Tanaka, Sarafan spent several years on the Southern California circuit. At Del Mar he won the 2002 Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT), equaling the course record, as well as two editions of the Henry F. Brubaker Stakes and the 2004 Escondido Handicap.
Sarafan also was acquainted with Santa Anita, starting there 13 times. Though he never won at the Arcadia track, he finished second in the Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Championship (gr. IT) twice, once to The Tin Man, and second in the 2002 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. IIT). Sarafan’s other seconds included the 2002 Japan Cup (Jpn-I) and Arlington Million (gr. IT).
Look for Sarafan in many of the galloping scenes of “The Cleaner,” while Fighting Furrari portrayed Moonshine in the winner’s circle. Fighting Furrari has had plenty of experience with actors. He was the primary horse whenever Tobey Maguire was aboard Seabiscuit.
“The horses we used were absolutely gorgeous,” Boyum said.
The director set up racing shots in the Santa Anita stretch using Craigmyle’s racehorses. Boyum interspersed that with archival racing footage and said he was mindful of racing accuracy.
“I was the second-unit director on the hockey movie ‘Mystery, Alaska’ and some of the Mighty Ducks movies,” he said. “I try to always present a sports film so that an aficionado won’t feel betrayed. I try to play to the fan of the sport as well as to people who might not know anything about it.”
He asked jockeys and exercise riders used as extras to help him keep to that accuracy in re-creating sequences in the jocks’ room. Extras included David Nuesch, Amir Cedeno, Michael Hunter, Jane Steiner and Norman Rodriguez.