EXCLUSIVE: Matt Sobel, who helmed the Sundance 2015 drama Take Me To The River, has been set by Focus Features to direct The Scorpio Races. Jack Thorne is adapting Maggie Stiefvater’s bestselling YA novel, which was published in 2011 by Scholastic. Seth Grahame-Smith and David Katzenberg are producing via their KatzSmith Productions banner. Jay Ireland is executive producing.

matt sobelThe premise sounds like The Hunger Games  — on horseback. It takes place on the fictional island of Thisby, where an idealistic young racer and a legendary horse trainer prepare for the annual Scorpio Race, an event where blood-lusting “water horses” and their jockeys race for a grand prize at lethal costs.

This is Sobel’s first studio film. He’s repped by WME Cinetic and attorneys Bob Offer and Jim Gilio.