Dark Horse the Documentary: Review


Once in a while fairytales come true in real life.  This documentary charts the story of one of those times.

Louise Osmond unfolds her story in real time using a mix of interviews, reminiscences, TV footage and a variety of amateur video moments of varying quality, but the story is so compelling that some of the rougher bits merely add to the gritty reality of the tale set in the grimmest of Welsh valleys.  In a former pit village (Cefn Fforest, Caerphilly) that could certainly not be described in any way as idyllic.

It really is a ripping yarn for our times and concerns the career of a racehorse called Dream Alliance owned by a motley crew of 30 working class Welsh men and women, bred by the cleaner at Asda and mared by what could best be described as a bit of a dray horse with literally no discernible racecourse form whatsoever.  The sire perhaps had a bit more form, but hardly of Nijinsky proportions.

The subplot of the story is about class.  The most noble, most royal and most privileged sport of them all (apart from, say, polo) is horse racing.  So to enter the world of horse racing as a  bunch of 30 complete amateurs who could barely afford the £10 a week the syndicate they formed in their local pub to breed and then race a horse was more than simply a “challenge”  it was verging on the insane.

But slowly but surely Dream Alliance’s story is told, from the search for his mother and father to his birth (caught on CCTV), his childhood being raised on an allotment and then his entry (“like a snotty nosed comprehensive schoolboy arriving at Eton”) into Phillip Hobbs’ Minehead yard.

It’s perhaps ironic that Hobbs assistant trainer, Johnson White, who tells the story from the trainer’s side has every familiarity with the concept of silver spoons and was initially horrified at the prospect of these oiks and their second rate unschooled horse infiltrating his yard but at the end of the day money is money and given that many a mickle make a buckle the thirty Welsh dreamers had amassed enough of a muckle to give it a go.

I won’t spoil the story by going any further other than to say what now unfolds is Dream Alliance’s at times roller coaster career.  Told in almost breathtaking style.  There were three or four moments that had me close to tears.  Mainly in sheer admiration at Jan Vokes whose vision the whole idea was.

This is a beautiful documentary, truly heartfelt, and utterly compelling with a vestry, very warm heart and a tremendous fillip for all those dreamers out there who dare to be different.

Go and enjoy!