DARK HORSE (2015)- Documentary Retroview

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Dark Horse, filmmaker Louise Osmond’s inspiring documentary, is all about triumph and its transience, and the will to pick up the pieces and carry on.

Set in a small town in Wales that fell into deep depression and near poverty status when its coal mines tanked, Dark Horse is the cinematic telling of the true tale of Janet Vokes, a local barmaid who decided she’d like to raise and race a thoroughbred. Just like that.

Without any experience, but with plenty of uncanny ingenuity, Vokes gets her at-first-reluctant friends and neighbors to pool their money to create a syndicate to buy, breed, train and race a horse.

After careful research and a thorough search, and enlisting the participation of a skilled horse syndicate manager and the town’s finances handler, Vokes makes the daring purchase of Dream Alliance, a gorgeous but untested gelding with a willful and somewhat scrappy temperament. 

Needless to say, the establishment of the syndicate brings hope to the town and uplifts community spirits. However, when racing novice Dream Alliance is introduced at the track, his working class backers are shunned by the snooty denizens of the thoroughbred world — that is until the valiant steed surprises everyone by winning the prestigious Chepstow hurdles. The impressive new contender and his gleeful down-to-earth owners cannot be denied.

When Dream Alliance is seriously injured while racing, the veterinarian suggests putting him down. But Volkes vetoes euthanasia and fights to save the beloved gelding’s life, even though it’s unlikely that he will ever again be able to race — or even support a rider.

But — no spoilers here because Dream Alliance’s story is well known in racing circles and to anyone who follows the sport — the amazing gelding recovers and finds his way back to the track. 

Dream Alliance’s story is brimming with hope and inspiration. And spirits soar in Osmond’s beautifully crafted documentary. Dark Horse, releases in 2015 is a winner and I’ll bet you’ll want to see it more than once.

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