He wants to create a roaring crowd-pleaser and a reverential slice of America. He succeeds somewhat at the first, but fails miserably at the second.
Part of the problem is that Ross crams too much of the story into a clipped, cross-cut first act that gives his actors too little room to blossom as real people. Ross's ripe dialog doesn't help.
The film finally kicks into gear when the wonder horse arrives. But even during the "emotional" final act, Ross smothers us in teeth-grinding symbolism.
But there's no doubt the races are well-shot.