Anyone who has ever been to a racetrack - or even those who have just watched horse races on television - knows that horse racing makes for great drama. However, as we have learned whilst researching references to horse racing in popular culture, it also makes for hilarious comedy. Check out our Top Ten Horse Racing Pop Culture Moments - and if you feel we have neglected your favourite mention of the races, please feel free to drop us a line and let us know.
This wonderful series about a British cop transported back into 1973 could hardly wait to give a wink to horse racing history. The reference is fairly brief but rather clever. The detectives are drawing their selections for the Grand National randomly and Sam Tyler (the character of the time travelling cop) attempts to persuade Gene Hunt (his colleague) to trade his Red Rum for Sam’s Proud Percy; knowing that Red Rum would run arguably the greatest race of his career in the 1973 Grand National.
Fawlty Towers celebrates British humour and all facets of British culture, no matter how ludicrous, so the tradition of horse racing can simply not be left out. In “Communication Problems” a spot of good fortune befalls chronically unlucky hotel manager Basil Fawlty when he follows a customer’s tip and wins on a horse race. However, his efforts to keep his success secret from his wife Sybil, who strongly disapproves of Basil betting, causes hilarious chaos throughout this fantastic episode. Particular recommendation goes to the scene in which Basil attempts to mime the winning horse’s name - Dragonfly - it must be seen to be believed.
Everything that exists in this universe, or so it seems, has featured on The Simpsons; and horse racing is no exception. In "Saddlesore Galactica" Bart and Homer adopt Duncan The Diving Horse, land the family close to financial ruin and finally decide to race Duncan in order to finance his keeping cost. Running under the name Furious D and sporting a multicoloured mane, Duncan and jockey Bart take part at the Springfield Derby at Springfield Downs Racecourse. But will the evil elvish jockeys allow them to win? In classic Simpsons style, this episode unravels all the oddities we so love about the races and puts the special Simpsons spin on it.
The Marx Brothers’ seventh film takes us on a wild tour of the racetrack, exploring it from all angles and points of view. Perhaps the most delightful nod to the complicated world of horse races is the scene which has become known to the initiated as “The Tutsi Fruitsy Ice Cream Skit”. In this scene Chico poses as an ice cream seller as a cover to sell secret tips on the horses. Groucho purchases a tip, written in code and is thus conned into buying a series of code books to make his way around the lingo of the professional punters. Anyone who has ever felt out of their depths at the racetrack will be greatly delighted by this scene.
Although it is only the tiniest reference to the horse racing scene, this is simply too adorable to be neglected. Sesame Street character Uncle Wally is the band leader for a barbershop singing group of horses, calling themselves “The Kentucky Derby”. In 1991 this troupe of singing muppets gave a beautiful rendition of “One of Us Here is Not Like The Others”.
The danger of gambling addiction has never been portrayed in a more hilarious way than in this episode of the ever-popular Black Books. When Manny places a bet on the Grand National for Bernard, Bernard is not impressed. However, after a long song and dance about "the circus of death", Bernard quickly takes to the sport and before too long loses everything he owns to his new passion. Will Bernard lose the shop and have his legs broken? Or will Manny and Fran save the day?
The sequel to the action-packed and hysterical Crank (2006) pays its respect to the sport of horseracing in the raunchiest way possible. Chev Chelios (the main character) and his girlfriend Eve are searching for a man called Johnny Vang, who is allegedly hanging out at Hollywood Park Racecourse, when Chelios begins to run out of power (long story). As friction apparently recharges his battery, Chelios and Eve engage in wild, rampant sex on the racetrack - surrounded by cheering racegoers and posing an erotic obstacle for the horses.
In principle the concept of this film is a little lame: a zebra adopted by a horse trainer and his daughter wants to become a famous race horse and run in the Kentucky Derby. While this does not sound particularly thrilling, it is in fact quite a funny film about the elitist tendencies of high-class horse racing professionals. Particularly nice are the moments involving a horse called Trenton’s Pride after his successful sire Sir Trenton; reflecting nicely the expectations placed on thoroughbreds coming from powerful stock. The racing sequences are okay, the zebra dwarfed next to the thoroughbred giants entertaining and endearing.
As good country living folks it was only a matter of time until the Dukes came across some horse racing action. In this particular episode semi-bad guys Rosco and Boss open an illegal horse betting parlour and attempt to blame it on the Dukes. But not only that, the odds are rigged to rip off the punters and one more time it’s Dukes to the rescue. If you have ever wondered how to properly rig a horse race, this episode of The Dukes Of Hazzard is a must-see.
This great episode of Pushing Daisies is all about jockeys and the ghost of a former jockey hunting down a fair few of them. Packed with information about the jockeying trade and pleasantly creepy to suit the Halloween mood that gave occasion for this grand script. If you love jockeys and scary, abandoned horse racing facilities, this episode is going to make you very happy.