Although National Velvet was the first starring role for 11-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, the early part of the film belongs to Mickey Rooney in the showier role of Mike Taylor, a headstrong English ex-jockey. Soured on life by a serious accident, Mike plans to steal from the country family that has taken him in, but his resolve is weakened by the kindness of young Velvet (Taylor). The two find a common bond in their love of horses.
Velvet wins an unbreakable horse in a raffle, and enters the animal in the Grand National Sweepstakes. Though Mike is unable to ride the horse, he aids Velvet in her plan to disguise herself as a jockey; she wins the race...but the story isn't over quite yet.
Co-starring as Velvet's mother is Anne Revere, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance. National Velvet is based on the novel by Enid Bagnold.