The Joanne Vannicola Website

A Charming, Comical Coming-of-age Tale

by Gail Pennington

The young and the horse-crazy may enjoy "Derby" (8 p.m. Saturday on Channel 2), a predictable story of a big race that's likable mainly for the gorgeous horses and even more gorgeous scenery.

Kate (Joanne Vannicola) is 15 and growing up in heaven - a horse farm in the California hills near Santa Barbara - when her mother dies and her father (Len Cariou) decides to send her to school in the East.

Leaving her beloved horse and her boyfriend, Cass (David Charvet of "Baywatch"), she departs for Boston; six years pass and she's back for the first time, called to her father's sickbed. She again meets Cass, but too late - she has a fiance (Dean McDermott) in tow.

When her father dies, Kate is torn. Should she (a.) sell the farm, the horses and all his dreams? Or (b.) pursue his quest to have a Kentucky Derby winner - a goal that seems in reach this year, since the farm has two great prospects?

And if she goes with (b.), should she (c.) race the prospect the surly trainer (Darren McGavin) wants? Or should she (d.) go with her heart and race the filly whose mother was her beloved childhood mount?

Then there's the love dilemma: Should she (e.) stick with the fiance, an allergic lawyer, or (f.) pick up again with Cass, who's still an exercise boy?

Most of this is decided by Derby Day, although I didn't believe for a minute that these fairly smart people would pay $20,000 to enter the race and show up in Louisville still minus a jockey when 160-pound Cass has previously been the only rider the horse will accept.

That's part of the attempt to add suspense, which for some reason doesn't work - possibly because we're never in doubt how everything will come out.

But the scenery, and the horses, really are gorgeous.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Post-Dispatch wire services provided information for this column; 06-15-1995

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