March 12, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

TOPIC Does Disney’s Hidalgo really tell the ”true story” of cowboy Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen, left) and his scrappy steed’s 3,000-mile race across the Arabian Desert in 1890? Or is the legend a load of hay?

CuChillaine O’Reilly, cofounder of the Long Riders’ Guild: ”It is fantasy, pure and simple. Hopkins plundered history on an extraordinary scale. The hostile terrain was not crossed until 1931, and then only by the use of camels.”

John Fusco, Hidalgo screenwriter: ”Extreme endurance racing at that time was so extreme that it was illegal. Even Hopkins said in one of his essays that these races were done on the q.t. I mean, races like these were more Fight Club than Kentucky Derby.”

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