“Dream Horse”: a Hollywood movie from a real-life story


In the end, he did never come first at the Grand National, but he made it to Hollywood. The “Dark Horse” bred by a group of Welsh commoners on an allotment in Cefn Fforest is the protagonist of a movie for the second time in six years. While it was a documentary in 2015 (“Dark Horse: the story of Dream Alliance”), in June 2021 it is a fiction that celebrates this peculiar story again: “Dream Horse” is now out in cinemas with the story of the thoroughbred who made history with the peculiar name “Dream Alliance”. Horse racing is big business, and bet-grand-national.co.uk is at the service of punters determined to gain. But in the case of this extraordinary Welsh true tale, “it was never about the money.”

This is how the ideator and driving force of the Alliance Partnership, Jan Vokes, explains it: “At the time, to us, we were just excited that we managed to breed a horse who would get on the racecourse, never mind do what he did,” she told the press. “It’s surreal. It’s unbelievable.” Jan, portrayed by Australian actress Toni Collette in the movie, was working two jobs in 2000, as a cleaner at a supermarket and barmaid. She overheard a tax advisor talking to friends about a racehorse he had owned. That gave Jan the unusual inspiration to try and breed a racing horse offering shares in the venture to a series of people.

Jan and her husband, Brian, did not buy a horse race, but a mare, Rewbell, who did not bear her name by chance: she had a hell of a temper and a barbed wire injury. She was being sold cheap (£1000), and they managed to get her even cheaper, for £350. The tax advisor who inspired Jan, Howard Davies, was named the “racing manager” of the group. Rewbell, with the cooperation of stallion Bien Bien, became the mother of Dream Alliance in 2001 and the adventure began.

A group of 23 people formed and agreed to contribute £10 per week to develop and train the young horse. Dream Alliance was quite successful. He ran his first race, trained by Philip Hobbs, in 2004 and came in fourth. Next time it was the third place, then second, and in January 2006  his fourth race, the hurdles at Chepstow, was a victory. Then, in 2008, the incident, when he was preparing to run the Grand National: he sliced a tendon during a race.

Poor Dream Alliance risked being euthanized, but his jockey and Davies saved him. A special treatment with stem cells helped the horse heal. A 15-month rehabilitation followed before he could go back to racing.

The victory at the Welsh National in 2009 brought a lot of attention to Dream Alliance, what with his dramatic comeback and his adventurous life story. Again, he prepared for the Grand National, in 2010. But he never completed the race: he was pulled up after the seventh fence. The horse of humble origins ran seven more races, but he was diagnosed with a lung condition and finally retired in 2012.

In his career, Dream Alliance ran 30 races and won £138,646 in prize money. The sum was sufficient to cover all training and veterinary expenses. The 23 syndicate members even obtained a small profit of £1430 each.