This made for television film about the plucky racehorse Kiwi on Sunday Theatre TVNZ1 was not the nail-biter I hoped it would be.

It wasn't saccharine but it didn't bite at the edges and have you yelling loudly for Kiwi who was the underdog of the racing world in the early 1980s.

But, I hasten to add, that the footage of Kiwi winning the 1983 Melbourne Cup encapsulated an image for me of a swashbuckler with all swords gleaming.

This film was written to celebrate the Waverley wonder horse Kiwi and the story of young jockey Jimmy Cassidy told in tandem.


Written by former New Zealander (from Taranaki) John Banas, it was clear that this double story was intention of the script even though at times the writing faltered, leaving the actors struggling with leaden sentences.

Kiwi's owner Anne Lupton and her husband Snowy, a part-time trainer, were the quintessential polite, quiet country folk who ran a cattle farm near Waverley.

I was told by a friend that the family of the Luptons had politely declined to help with the making of this film.

"They are very quiet, country people,'' he said.

The start of the film showed tough times looming in the region and local farmers changing from cattle to dairy farming.

It was that dire time of the closing of the Patea meat works ... a time when local people, once the best of mates, started to turn against each other.

Changing times where there was even the start of women jockeys in the racing industry.

Kiwi's first jockey aboard was Dianne Moseley, a decision made by Anne Lupton.


It was a decision that incensed all the gung-ho lad jockeys.

Of course the young, brash Cassidy didn't hesitate to show his interest in riding Kiwi and adopt a lip-curling sneer when he knew Moseley was aboard.

Bitter anger brewed between Cassidy and Moseley, then his chance came up when Moseley suffered a horrific fall during a race ... not the best way in.

From Sydney the now retired Cassidy, who lives in Sydney, said Banas had depicted him as a cocky lad with the gift of the gab who took it to the top.

"I'm quite proud really," Cassidy said.

He told young Auckland actor Patrick Carroll, who played him, that he hoped the film took him to the sky where "Kiwi took me''.

Sadly the downfall in this film was in the writing and its decidedly clunky effect.

Not good for what should have been a tight, pithy script.