Riding

Triple Crown Talent

American Quarter Horse Copper Locks isn't a Kentucky Derby winner, but he played one on the big screen.

America's Horse

American Quarter Horses are known for their quick bursts of speed – after all, their abilities as quarter-mile sprinters are what earned them their very name. Those same abilities propelled one American Quarter Horse onto the big screen in the recent movie “Secretariat.”

Copper Locks, a 5-year-old gelding sired by Copper Buff and bred by Alvin “Bubba” Brossette, AQHA’s all-time leading jockey by number of wins, is one of the horses who plays the Triple Crown-winning Thoroughbred Secretariat in the movie about his life. The movie, which premiered October 8, 2010, also spotlights the famous racehorse’s owner, Penny Chenery, who took over her father’s stable and had to fight for respect in the male-dominated industry of the 1970s. Copper Locks – who has been nicknamed “Boudreaux” by his new owner, movie wrangler Rusty Hendrickson – was used in some of the racing sequences, when Rusty needed a speedy horse to pass the pack.

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“Sometimes when we would put him out there, and Secretariat had to make those amazing runs past everybody, (Copper Locks) could do it. He could really scoot. Sometimes it could just make your skin crawl, because he could go through (the other racehorses) like a motorcycle going through cones,” says Rusty, an AQHA member.

Before being sold to Rusty, Copper Locks won his last out for Bubba, his owner and trainer. It was an 870-yard claiming race at Evangeline Downs in Louisiana.

Rusty, who has worked on other racehorse movies including “Seabiscuit,” “Dreamer” and the ESPN original movie “Ruffian,” says seeking out a Quarter Horse is part of his formula. When you need to show quick speed on film, you’d better turn to an American Quarter Horse.

“Running Quarter Horses are much better at that than the Thoroughbreds,” Rusty says. “They’re sprinters.”

Rusty used a total of six or seven horses to play Secretariat in the movie. Two were the principal “cast horses” who were featured in all the close-up shots. And the others were used in the racing sequences to give Rusty the range of skills he needed.

“By virtue of what you’re trying to accomplish, you need a slow horse, a fast horse, one in between, one who’s quiet in the gate,” Rusty says.

With so many Secretariats running around, how on earth do you keep everything consistent?

That’s where Rusty calls on his wife, Lisa Brown, who is in charge of horsey hair and makeup.

“We call it ‘horse continuity,’ ” Rusty says, “trying to get them all to look exactly alike.”

“It’s pretty easy to find chestnuts,” he says, so the body color in this case wasn’t hard to match. “Some of the horses were painted to look like Secretariat. Just adding the white, or you can block out a white leg.”

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Before filming began, a Secretariat look-alike contest yielded one horse who had all the right markings – the three white legs with a star and strip.

Copper Locks has a star, strip and snip (white on his nose), and three white socks or stockings on the correct legs – both hinds and the right front. It was close enough that a little dye and white paint could do the trick.

He also has the pedigree to match.

His dam, the Thoroughbred Lip Locked, is a great-granddaughter of Bold Ruler, the famous sire of Secretariat.

“It was nice to have a horse that would work in that capacity,” Bubba says of his homebred gelding portraying the great racehorse on screen.

Bubba remembers Secretariat’s brilliance in 1973 and says he was “one of the most phenomenal horses I’ve ever seen run.”