For the first movie, producers Tom Sternberg and Fred Roos and director Carroll Ballard spent months searching for the
appropriate Arabian stallion, traveling to England, Morocco, Egypt and throughout the United States. At last they found their
"star" in San Antonio, Texas; Cass Ole, the most honored Arabian show horses in the United States, owned by 18-year-old Francesca
Cuello and her father Leo Cuello.
Three other horses were trained with Cass Ole for the production. FAE-JUR, an Arabian stallion from the Jack
Tone Ranch in Stockton, was chosen by director Ballard for his unique liveliness, as Cass's double. The two horses owned by
stunt coordinator Glen Randall, Jr. were trained more specifically for the fighting and running stunts. All four horses were
brought together at the Randall Ranch in Newhall, Cal, in the spring of 1977 for an eleven-week training session before the
Kelly Reno who played the role of Alec Ramsey was an excellent rider, and trained with Cass Ole' extensively,
establishing a rapport with his equine costar that would add immeasurably to the film.
Cass Ole looks over the cliffs of Sardinia
For location, the crew scouted many places, but finally settled on Sardinia for the island scenes and Toronto,
Canada for the city and farm scenes.
Fort Erie Racetrack
Both Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, and Fort Erie Racetrack in Fort Erie, Ontario, were used to double as Belmont
Park. (Woodbine for the night scenes and Fort Erie for the day scenes) The saddling enclosure is the Horse Palace of Exhibition
Place, in Toronto. Those who have been to these places (myself, worked as a hotwalker at both tracks, and the Horse Palace
being my favorite place to visit at the Exhibition) might not even know that is wherescenes from the famous film was made.
Cass Ole made a return visit years later for a public display, and despite mad driving for over an hour to get there in time,
my father and I just missed him. I also know someone that had lunch with Mickey Rooney while he was filming (coincidentally,
a retired jockey!)
For the racing scenes, races were filmed from moving dollies behind the horses at Santa Anita Racetrack in California.
Microphones were attached to the bellies of the horses, earning the movie an award for best sound. The effect of pounding
hooves made the audience feel as though they too, were racing down the track.
Roark Wearing, an apprentice jockey, was Kelly Reno's stand in for the racing scenes.
For these scenes, Cass Ole had a stand in as well. His name was El Mokhtar, an arabian stallion. He also came
back to do the sequel, The Black Stallion Returns.