Kate (Vannicola), home from Boston to the family horse farm, brings along her genteel fiance (Dean McDermott). She’s 21, spirited and insensitive, just like her late adoptive dad (Len Cariou). But she has cozy feelings toward trainer Cass (Charvet), who loves Calliope, foal of a horse Kate once adored.
The farm is in debt, and trusted senior trainer Lester (Darren McGavin) is pushing another horse for the Derby because he has an interest. Calliope won’t let anyone ride her but Cass, who’s unqualified for the Derby; it’s not tough to figure out who’ll be aboard her at Churchill Downs.
Though there’s supposed to have been a fling between the two characters when they were younger, Charvet and Vannicola are blah as far as chemistry is concerned. But Charvet, engaging and athletic, faring far better than he did in his April stand in the telepic “Seduced and Betrayed,” credibly limns the good-hearted, loyal Cass.
And pretty Vannicola, flinging out nervous energy, plays Kate as moody and in need of a challenge.
As Kate’s fiance, McDermott has little to do, but he does it well. McGavin is his usual convincing self, and Felton Perry as the farm’s chief groom establishes a character out of the cutout he’s handed. Cariou’s comfortable father figure is amiable, while Wayne Robson overplays a nasty jockey.
Director Bob Clark didn’t put much pizzazz in the romancer, but it will pass as an OK family programmer. An auction seg is involving (with director Clark milking the role of the auctioneer), and scenes of Charvet and Vannicola racing horses over the hills approach the lyrical.
Cameraman Alywn Kumst does a good job, and the contretemps between a standing Kate and Cass as he rides around her wooing her (they’re also in a 360-degree circling shot that calls attention to itself) has charming possibilities. Tech credits are OK.
“Derby” fits into the family concept, but it’s a flat entry badly in need of originality. Too many racing tales have ridden around this track before.