Let’s start this off by clarifying that I’m no film critic! I avoid movies where animals die or get hurt like most people avoid accountability. I despise sad endings and I don’t really want to learn anything from a movie. They are my respite from real life. I enjoy couples falling in love while singing Benny and the Jets on a bar counter. Girls who move from Kentucky to L.A. and make it as burlesque singers are more my tune. When a good friend suggested we go see Dark Horse, I was skeptical. In Black Beauty (this is a spoiler) Ginger dies. Old Yeller, well I don’t even need to remind you. I can’t bring myself to even think of watching Marley & Me. However, I lucked into some free tickets to Magnolia at the Modern and when I looked at the upcoming films, Dark Horse was the first on the list! I read the synopsis and it didn’t say anything about any horses dying.
I should also add that I’m not a huge fan of horse racing. I’ve seen some horrifying incidents on the track that have gotten me nearly to the point of being unable to watch any horse racing. I get excited for the big races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont), but avoid watching them live lest they end in another Ruffian. This film was an absolutely delightful surprise! Another spoiler, the horse does get hurt, but it isn’t horrifying and he lives.
The story of Dream Alliance is a fairytale. A lower middle class woman from Wales gets a super crazy idea to breed her very own race horse. We all know from recent posts that my experience with breeding has been a rough road so the fact that she got a healthy foal with four legs on the ground is a huge step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned!
Dream Alliance was raised him on a “slag heap” as quoted in a U.K. press article. He wasn’t born in the posh stables of the Irish National Stud or some other fancy racing stable and he definitely didn’t have any blue blood! His dam was purchased for a mere 300 pounds and the stud fee was only 3,000 pounds. Most racing stallion stud fees are well into the five figures. Dream grew up amongst those who would become his biggest fans as though he was one of them.
Dream Alliance’s breeder knew that the cost of training and racing him would exceed her resources so they offered up syndicate ownership to the townspeople for a cost of 10 pounds per month to each owner. The group they ended up with was a far cry from the typical racehorse ownership crowd, but they were committed and exuberant! When he was ready, Dream Alliance was sent to training with Phillip Hobbs of Minehead Stables. All involved with his training were pretty skeptical of his potential, but Dream exceeded everyone’s expectations!
Dream won many races and placed very well in those he didn’t win, but he did get hurt just before one of the biggest races of his career requiring 18 months off from work to treat his tendon injury, heal, and (miraculously) go back into training. It was AFTER this nearly career-ending injury that Dream won the biggest race of his career, the Welsh Grand National. He continued to race after the Welsh, but after pulling up at quite a few races or finishing poorly it was determined that he had a career ending lung condition. By this time he was 9 years old, a much longer career than most racehorses in the U.S.
The film is beautifully done with quite a bit of actual racing footage and candid conversations with syndicate members. I plan to buy it as soon as I can add it to my iTunes library to watch over and over again and cheer for the working class chestnut with four white socks who beat all the blue bloods at their own race!
Here is the trailer for your viewing pleasure: Dark Horse Official Trailer