Helmut Schmidt, Published August 22 2009
Hoofing it to Hollywood
Larry, a 3-year-old race horse owned by Heather Benson, the general manager of Fargo’s North Dakota Horse Park, was recently chosen in an online equine casting call for the Disney film “Secretariat.”
Within a week of Benson sending in Larry’s photos and biography, a star was born.
“He’s got the look, so he’s got the part,” Benson said. “They were looking for a big, bright chestnut with a good personality.”
Larry’s taken everything in stride.
Benson, on the other hand, felt like she was in the winner’s circle when she got the news.
“I was out of control I was so happy,” Benson said. “It was like having a kid in the movie.”
Secretariat is one of the greatest race horses of modern time. He won horse racing’s Triple Crown in 1973, setting track records at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and a world record at the Belmont Stakes.
He even ended up on the cover of Time magazine.
Larry was born in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Benson said. She bought him in January.
For the movie, she had to sell him to Disney. However, as part of the agreement, she gets him back at the end of filming.
Hollywood horse expert Rusty Hendrickson is in charge of the training.
Larry will travel to Kentucky sometime in the next week or two, she said. There, he’ll join at least three to four other horses that will help play Secretariat. For the next two months, they’ll be taught various cues and tricks needed for the movie role.
Filming should begin at the end of the year, Benson said.
Larry doesn’t have Secretariat’s markings, but that’s not a worry, he’ll have his own makeup artist, she said.
Benson says photos of Larry as a teen show him as an awkward, gawky-looking horse, with little hint of movie-star looks.
But, he’s filled out since.
Secretariat was a big, muscular horse, at 16.2 hands high and 1,200 pounds. A hand is a standard unit of measurement that equals 4 inches and often is used to describe the height of horses.
Larry is also 16.2 hands high, though his penchant for the feedbag puts him at 1,300 pounds, Benson said.
“He’s a small-town country boy,” Benson said. “He knows how to train hard and eat well. He would eat everything in this barn, given the chance.”
And is she afraid Larry will lose his sunny disposition in a place where everyone is saddled with high expectations?
Nay, Benson said.
“He just knows that everyone likes him right now,” she said.
Still, “he’s very movie-star-like. He’s learning to adjust to life in the limelight.”
For example, Larry won’t just eat an apple. He’ll drool on it. But he won’t chomp until it is cut up for him.
And when it’s time to clean up, crank up the hot-water heater, Larry won’t go for a cold shower.
“He won’t stand for it,” Benson said.
Larry also has his own Facebook page.
It lists his new home as Hollywood, Calif., and his birthdate as March 29, 2006. Personal interests are hay, oats and running fast.
There is no mention of his marital status or whether there’s a special filly in his life.
To Facebook friend Cyclone Larry, go to the North Dakota Horse Park’s Web page,
Readers can reach Forum reporterHelmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583