Otto Thorwarth makes appearance at Movie in the Park

Indiana Grand Racing & Casino was the sponsor of “Movie in the Park” Friday, June 24 at Morrison Park in Shelbyville. The featured movie was “Secretariat,” the Disney movie on the career of the famous racehorse from the 1970s. Local retired jockey Otto Thorwarth, who played Ron Turcotte in the movie, made a guest appearance before the movie to sign autographs and later talked about the experience with movie goers prior to the start of “Secretariat.”

“I was fortunate to ride for over 20 years and then capped off my career by riding ‘Secretariat,’” said Thorwarth about his experience in being in the movie. “They had cast everyone for the movie except for the jockey part. The director wanted the racing scenes in the movie to be authentic, so he said ‘if you can’t find an actor to play a jockey, then find me a jockey that can act.’ They did a casting call in Lexington and I went down. There were over 750 jockeys that tried out for the part and I got it. I’d never done any acting before, but it was a fantastic experience.”

Thorwarth, who is a native of Arkansas, retired when he began working on the movie. He explained the movie was shot over four months and at three locations, including Keeneland, Churchill Downs and the majority of the movie was filmed in Lafayette, Louisiana because the state of Louisiana gives big tax breaks to movie companies. He explained that is why so many movies are filmed there.

“Probably one of the most challenging scenes in the movie is when I was supposed to ride ‘Secretariat’ through the fog in a scene leading up to the Belmont Stakes,” said Thorwarth. “There was no actual fog, they used machines to create the fog. The cameraman was standing on the track and I couldn’t see him, so I took my boot and drew a line in the track so I knew what path to ride through. I took the horse through the fog a few times slow and when it was time to shoot the scene, we started through and the horse stopped and I went flying through the fog on my own. But we finally got the shot.”

In addition to the appearance by Thorwarth, Victor, a horse from Indiana Grand, made a guest appearance and enjoyed peppermints and carrots from those in attendance. Victor is a 14 year old Quarter Horse owned by Trainer Chaz Rechy and works as a pony horse at the track, one of the horses that escorts the racehorses during the races.

Garry Lauziere, Indiana Grand’s bugler, signaled the start of the movie at dusk by playing the “Call to Post” and Grand Daddy, Indiana Grand’s mascot, also made an appearance. Movie goers enjoyed free popcorn and other items from the track, including kids jockey helmets and t-shirts. The

“Movie in the Park” series is provided by Shelbyville Parks and Recreation and is held each summer on a portable outdoor oversized screen. Several hundred people were in attendance for the event.