Dark Horse (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

August 24, 2016 by  

“Dark Horse” is a fantastic underdog documentary about how a racehorse owned by a group of non-wealthy commoners would not only win a horse race but how the racehorse would make an amazing comeback after a terrible injury to race again and defy expectations. Louise Osmond’s “Dark Horse” is recommended!

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DVD TITLE: Dark Horse


DURATION: 86 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:40:1, Anamorphic Widescreen, English, English -Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH and French

COMPANY: Sony Picture Classics

RATED: PG (Some Mild Thematic Elements and Language)

RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2016

Directed by Louise Osmond

Written by Louise Osmond

Produced by Judith Dawson

Executive Producer: Adam Partridge, Anna Miralis, Anna Higgs, Lizzie Francke, Julian Ware

Cinematography by Benjamin Kracon

Music by Anne Nikitin

Edited by Joby Gee

Set in Wales, DARK HORSE is the inspirational true story of a group of friends who decide to take on the elite ‘sport of kings’ and breed themselves a racehorse. Raised on a slagheap allotment, their foal grows into an unlikely champion, beating the finest thoroughbreds in the land, before suffering a near fatal accident. Nursed back to health by the love of his owners, he makes a remarkable recovery, returning to the track for a heart-stopping comeback.

In 2014, filmmaker Louise Osmond created her 2014 documentary “Dark Horse” about the true story of a racehorse named Dream Alliance.

The story of Dream Alliance is amazing but also the story of how this champion racehorse came to be and how this amazing horse would come back to racing after a terrible racing injury.

“Dark Horse” would premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and would win a World Cinema audience award.  And now, “Dark Horse” will be available on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

In a small town in South Wales, a barmaid named Janet Vokes who is known for breeding whippets and racing pigeons decides to breed her own race horse. Overhearing a tax adviser about owning his own racehorse, she is inspired and she and her husband purchase a mare named Rewbell who was sold for cheap because it suffered injuries due to a barbed wire and had a bad temper.

Hiring the tax adviser, Howard Davies to become the racing manager, they bred Rewbell with a stallion named Bien Bien and in 2001, the foal was born.

As the Vokes reared the foal in the Cefn Forest near the town of Blackwood, they pitched to fellow commoners to pitch in money and join the effort to join an ownership syndicate and each member would contribute ten pounds per week to help develop the young horse and train him for racing.

In order to make this work, with 30 people contributing ten pounds, they can pay for the estimated 15,000 pounds a year to keep the horse trained for racing.

And by 2004, the young horse named Dream Alliance would be entered in his first race.  The horse came in fourth and eventually would take part in more races and got better.  And would eventually win his fourth race.

But in 2008, at the preparatory race for the Grand National at the Aintree Festival, Dream Alliance suffered a terrible injury and sliced a tendon.

And as a horse who would suffer such a terrible injury would be put down, Dream Alliance’s owners said that they would rather have him go back home than euthanized.

But when the syndicate made the decision to give Dream Alliance a new type of stem cell treatment, Dream Alliance would heal.  But what would come after Dream Alliance’s healing would become a miracle.


“Dark Horse” is presented in 2:40:1 aspect ratio (Anamorphic Widescreen) in English and English – Audio Description track in 5.1 Dolby Digital.

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good as one can expect on DVD.  Picture quality is very good, with some race footage looking a tad bit aged but as most documentary archived sources are never pristine, for the most part, picture quality is good.  You also have camera footage of when Dream Alliance was born.

As for audio, the soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.


“Dark Horse” comes with a photo gallery and a theatrical trailer.

I have watched reviewed documentaries and films about horses, especially about race horses.

And if you are a viewer of horse racing, the story of Dream Alliance is quite fascinating because the horse survived a terrible accident which many horses would often be put to sleep.

But with stem cell treatment, Dream Alliance became the first horse to make a comeback to horseracing after a terrible injury due to the new treatment but also the first horse to win a horse race after stem cell treatment.

In many ways, one can root for the horse and its syndicate because they were the underdogs.

Where most horses come from affluent families and are trained by the top trainers, the storyline of Dream Alliance is fascinating because the horse was trained courtesy of the investment by commoners living in Blackwood in South Wales and it all began with a barmaid named Jan Vokes who overheard a local tax adviser talking about a racehorse he owned.

Jan would eventually be inspired to breed a racehorse and she and her husband would purchase an injured horse named Rewbell, mate it with a stallion named Bien Bien (first year at stud in the UK) and next thing you know, a foal was born.

Jan would make Howard Davies, the tax adviser the racing manager and commoners of Blackwood would donate ten pounds a week as part of a syndicate that would pay for Dream Alliance’s race training.

Of course, because they were commoners and not wealthy, nor were they from families that raised horses and passed down the raising of horses from generation after generation.  The syndicate were looked down by the horseracing community.

Many race horses are bred for many generations and are worth over millions of dollars.  Dream Alliance was born from the injured, chubby and bad tempered mare named Rewbell who only cost 350 pounds.

And so when Dream Alliance raced, not much was expected from the horse because the horse was owned by non-wealthy commoners.  But these commoners believed in their horse and looked at treated him like family and sure enough, the horse defied expectation.

But of course, Dream Alliance would defy any expectation when it bounced back from a terrible injury, spared from being put down and would achieve a miracle.

As for the DVD, picture quality is as good as one can expect on DVD, and as for audio, the documentary features crystal clear dialogue and music.  There are not many special features included but a photo gallery and a theatrical trailer.

Overall, “Dark Horse” is a fantastic underdog documentary about how a racehorse owned by a group of non-wealthy commoners would not only win a horse race but how the racehorse would make an amazing comeback after a terrible injury to race again and defy expectations.

Louise Osmond’s “Dark Horse” is recommended!

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