Well put together and easy to watch, Chasing the Win is a documentary that takes a closer look at horse racing and one family’s unexpected champion run.
Champion racehorses are bred, deliberately and a great cost. However, every now and again a contender comes out of nowhere and takes the world by surprise. That is the case with Kinsale King, a powerhouse of a horse who misfired with his previous two trainers. Until of course, King’s owner pairs him with Carl O’Callaghan, a relative newcomer with a big personality and even bigger dreams. Together O’Callaghan and Kinsale King travel the world competing in the world’s most glamorous and high-profile races and realize their potential. If the description above of Chasing the Win sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie, that is because its filmmakers have carefully created a narrative designed to play like a classic underdog story. The unlikely contender who becomes a champion against the odds is always a crowd pleaser and this documentary really embraces that and milks it for all it is worth.
Directed by Laura Sheehy (the daughter of Kinsale King’s owner) and Chris Ghelfi, Chasing the Win takes us behind the scenes of the world of competitive horse racing. We learn how O’Callaghan trains his horses and how close his bond is with his star horse; we get some insight into how the Sheehy brothers choose which horses they invest in (a mixture of complex genetic analysis and gut feel); but most of all we get to see how a passion for the horses and racing consumes everyone involved in the project and how much pleasure they get from the pursuit of victory.
The camera trains a close eye on the owners and trainer during the race scenes and we see how each of them respond to the highs and lows of competition. We witness them endlessly chasing the euphoria of winning and stonily looking on when they fall short. Juxtaposed with these scenes are talking head interviews; in these, you see a glimmer of the family’s ruthlessness as they disclose their willingness to cut ties with their trainer if he does not turn things around and how they have gone through plenty of trainers before O’Callaghan.
Good documentaries can introduce you to a subject that you have little or no prior knowledge of and make you care about them. Good documentarians understand that at the heart of all good stories are the people they are about. Chasing the Win does an effective job at showing us the inner world of horse racing and introduces us to its cast of characters; you come to understand what drives them and you root for them as Kinsale King goes from race to race. The arc of the film follows quite a familiar rhythm and there is little real drama and not too much to provoke a great deal of controversy. If, however, you are looking for a gentle watch featuring a group of people following their passion then you could do worse than this.