Filming "The Thoroughbred" at Churchill Downs, l-r, Hallie Gay Walden Bagley, Matt Grimm, Brent Abshear (sound/red hat), and producer Paul Wagner.

Filming "The Thoroughbred" at Churchill Downs, l-r, Hallie Gay Walden Bagley, Matt Grimm, Brent Abshear (sound/red hat), and producer Paul Wagner.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Thoroughbred Documentary Filming at Churchill

Directed and produced by Paul Wagner, the film will cover all aspects of the industry

A year and a half after Kentucky Education Television received a $2.25 million endowment to film a documentary called “The Thoroughbred,” the project was in full swing during Kentucky Derby week at Churchill Downs.

The one-hour program will be broadcasted on PBS and will be the first in a series of Kentucky productions. It is slated to premier nationwide by March 2010, in time for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

“We’re trying to do the impossible: explain everything about the world of the Thoroughbred in 60 minutes,” said Academy Award-winning producer/director Paul Wagner. “The film is aimed at the general public who watch the Kentucky Derby and (maybe) the other (Triple Crown) races, and that’s all they know about horses.”

Wagner said even though they are currently onsite in Louisville filming the excitement and pageantry of the Derby, the film will cover a much wider spectrum, focusing on the three major aspects of the industry: auctions, breeding, and racing.

Wagner’s team includes assistant producer Hallie Gay Walden Bagley (sister to breeder Ben Walden and WinStar Farm vice president Elliot Walden), and KET director of photography Matt Grimm. The trio has shot lot of Central Kentucky footage from behind the scenes at the Keeneland sales to the breeding shed at Three Chimneys Farm. But they have also traveled to New York to do a portrait of Aqueduct racetrack and to Dubai to follow Godolphin’s Derby contender Desert Party .

The group has additionally been tracking I Want Revenge , co-owned by IEAH Stables, the connections of last year’s Derby winner Big Brown , and General Quarters, trained by retired school principal Tom McCarthy.

“What we love about those three is they’re so different in terms of their connections,” said Wagner, who is hopeful that the film, which will be shot in high definition, will have a public screening at the Kentucky Theatre once it is finished.

“One of the things we find really exciting about the story we want to tell is how colorful this world is. I feel like once people get a feeling of that—the grooms on the backside, the eccentric owners, and the shrewd trainers—that kind of colorful cast of characters will be appealing to the general audience. There’s a lot of drama and a lot of story in it. (The Thoroughbred industry) is its own little world, and we want to part the curtain and show people what that world is like.”