|Directed by||Martin Ritt|
|Written by||Carol Sobieski|
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Cinematography||John A. Alonzo|
|Editing by||Sidney Levin|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||117 minutes|
Down on his luck Louisiana horse trainer Lloyd Bourdelle (Walter Matthau) dreams of winning the All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico. Lloyd has three sons, Buddy, Randy and Casey. Buddy helps his father train horses, while Randy rides them in races. Lloyd takes Casey and Randy to a small bush track, to try to make some money by racing Casey's small pony, Gypsy. They find a match race with Mr Marsh and his daughter, but play a trick on Marsh by tying a live chicken to Gypsy's saddle. Gypsy wins the race, but Marsh doesn't pay up, complaining that Lloyd cheated him by not having a rider on Gypsy. Lloyd laughs and remarks that the chicken is the best live jockey around. The races end and Lloyd takes Randy and Casey home.
Lloyd had sent Buddy to buy a racing Quarter Horse for Calvin LaBec (the man Lloyd trains race horses for) in the hopes of racing the horse that year, but Buddy returns home with an old broodmare he bought for $1,800. Calvin is angry with Lloyd and makes threats of taking his horses out of LLoyd's barn, until it is revealed that the mare is in foal to a stallion called Sure Hit. Apparently, Sure Hit is a very good stallion, so Calvin is placated by this information.
The mare gives birth to the foal. It is a colt with a wide white blaze and four white socks. The mare dies shortly after the colt is born, leaving the family wondering how to raise him. Casey, the youngest son, suggests letting his pony Gypsy nurse the colt. Gypsy had just weaned her own foal, so the family gives it a try and Gypsy accepts the colt. Casey feeds and raises the young colt, who grows into a strong two year old. Lloyd names the horse Casey's Shadow, after his son. Buddy starts Shadow under saddle. He is riding him around asks his little brother to 'cool him out'. Casey, feeling discouraged by some remarks his father made, urges the horse into a gallop instead. Shadow takes off running, Lloyd and Buddy both calling to Casey to slow the horse down. Casey does so, and his father runs over to him and pulls him off the horse, chiding him for making Shadow run. Casey promises not to do it again,but is made to check the horse's legs and cold hose them. In the morning, Casey tells his father the horse is 'sound like a drum', meaning Shadow is uninjured from the experience. A woman named Sarah Blue hears about a Sure Hit foal in Louisiana and goes to see the Bourdelle family, to offer Lloyd a large sum of money for the colt. They tell her they won't sell the colt until after the All American, so Sarah agrees to pay $5,000 for a share of the horse, as suggested by Buddy, which gives them the money for entering the colt in the race, with some to spare. After Sarah leaves, Lloyd calls Buddy a genius. They take the horse to the local track to gallop him. While they are there, Casey runs into Mr Marsh's daughter, who tells him he owes her five dollars. She goads Casey into having a match race for it, but during the race, Shadow spooks and runs onto hard asphalt, hurting his legs. Lloyd is very upset with Casey and spanks him when they get back to their farm. The vet comes to attend Shadow and tells Lloyd and Buddy to rest the horse for six weeks. They take him to Ruidoso Downs, and rest him there. Calvin finds out the horse is injured, but relents and allows Lloyd to still enter Shadow in the All American. Shadow runs in one of ten qualifying races for the All American, where he gets the fastest time in his race. Mr Marsh realizes that Shadow could beat his horse in the All American and sets out to do something about it. He sneaks into the barn where Shadow is stabled and puts poison in the food bucket. But he has poisoned the wrong horse, and Gypsy slumps to the ground dead, while Casey screams for help and collapses crying over the body of his beloved pony. Lloyd jumps in his truck and goes to a bar, where he asks another horseman if he knows who did it. The horseman tells him everyone knows who did it. Lloyd goes to the office by the track and waits. Before long, Marsh shows up. Lloyd tells him "You killed the wrong horse. You killed my baby's pony" and knocks Marsh to the ground and punches him. The next day, Shadow wins the All American, but is found afterwards to be severely lame. Sarah Blue is upset, because she wanted to buy the colt sound. She tells them she is no longer interested in the horse, as her plans were to race him some more, then retire him to stud. Calvin LaBec at first agrees with the vet that the horse should be destroyed, but seeing how this would affect Casey, Lloyd says he'll give up his share of the winnings to treat the horse. Reluctantly, the vet agrees to try to mend Shadow's legs. The operation is a success, and Lloyd and his sons take Shadow home.
- Walter Matthau as Lloyd Bourdelle
- Alexis Smith as Sarah Blue
- Murray Hamilton as Tom Patterson
- Robert Webber as Mike Marsh