Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance, a new documentary film that opens on Friday, might just be the feel-good movie of the year. A classic story of an underdog who triumphs against astronomical odds, the movie chronicles the rise and fall and rise of Dream Alliance, a racing horse bred by Jan Vokes, a bartender and cleaning lady who lives in the Welsh village of Cefn Fforest.
One night while working the bar, she overhears tax lawyer Howard Davis talk about raising a racehorse. He gave it a whirl and lost something like 5,000 pounds, so he had no interest in pursuing that path once again. But Jan does. And with a little arm twisting, she gets Howard and a toothless companion of hers to go along with her plan.
Jan recruits some of the bar regulars to donate £10 per week for the purchase of a mare. Then, she's got to pony up (pun intended) for a stud fee. Once the colt is born, she enlists a top-notch trainer. But even he has his doubts about the horse, which he likens to a street fighter who makes do with stamina rather than speed.
Dream Alliance turns into quite the competitor, even though one announcer fails to even recognize the horse as a "thoroughbred," infuriating Jan, who acts more like Dream's overprotective mother than its owner. "Good thing I didn't run into that announcer," she confides.
And when the horse gets hurt, as the animals often do when engaged in vigorous racing, Jan and her team (dubbed the Syndicate) rally by its side and treat it like a family member, scrapping together whatever savings they have to ensure it gets the treatment it needs.
By putting together present-day interviews and old clips from the various races that Dream Alliance ran, director Louise Osmond expertly constructs the film's plot. Featuring all the highs and lows found in any drama, the movie becomes a true roller coaster ride. Viewers will undoubtedly find themselves rooting for the horse and its owners as they face and ultimately overcome incredible odds.