Who was Dream Alliance?

Who was Dream Alliance?  While, perhaps, not quite in the same league as the fairytale triumph of Aldaniti and Bob Champion in the 1981 Grand National, the story of Dream Alliance was considered sufficiently uplifting to be made into the documentary ‘Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance’ in 2015 and the feature film ‘Dream Horse’ in 2021.

Around the turn of the twenty-first century, Cefn Fforest barmaid Janet ‘Jan’ Vokes hit upon the unlikely idea of buying a thoroughbred mare with a view to breeding a racehorse. Jan and her husband, Brian, duly acquired the mare Rewbell for the princely sum of £350 and sent her to the unheralded sire Bien Bien, who was standing at Kirlington Stud in Oxfordshire for a stud fee of £3,000. The resulting foal, Dream Alliance, was born and raised on an allotment on a disused coal tip before entering training with Somerset handler Philip Hobbs as a three-year-old.

Vokes recruited a disparate group of 22 local, working-class people – each of whom contributed £10 a week towards training costs – to form the so-called ‘Alliance Partnership’, supervised by local accountant and ‘racing manager’, Howard Davies. The name ‘Dream Alliance’ derived from the fact that, as Vokes put it, ‘We’re all an alliance, and this is our dream.’

The rest, as they say, is history. Dream Alliance won twice over hurdles in 2005/06 and twice over fences in 2006/07. The 2007/08 season started well enough, with a second place finish behind Denman in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November but, the following April, Dream Alliance suffered a near-fatal tendon injury. After revolutionary stem cell treatment and an absence of 18 months, he returned to racing and, remarkably, on his second start back, completed his rags-to-riches tale by winning the Welsh National at Chepstow at odds of 20/1.

Why are horses disqualified?

Why are horses disqualified?  Horses can be disqualified before or after a race for a variety of reasons, some of which are more common than others. Far and away the most common reason for disqualification is that, by accident or design, a horse causes interference to one or more of its rivals, to such an extent that it affects the result of the race, as far as the winner and placed horses are concerned. Depending upon the severity of the interference, the placings may be reversed or the offending horse may be disqualified.

Following a race, a horse may be subject to an objection by the Clerk of the Scales, for example, if a jockeys fails to ‘weigh in’, at all or, for whatever reason, the horse is considered to have carried less weight than it should have done, according to the race conditions. Occasionally, a horse may be disqualified, before or after a race, because it is found to be ineligible to run or, after a race, because its jockey is ineligible to ride. If a horse is subject to a routine examination and subsequently tests positive substance, it can be disqualified long after the race has been run. Other, more obscure reasons for disqualification include a horse that is leased, rather than owned outright, running in a selling or claming race without the written consent of the lessor.

Which was the best Australian racehorse of all time?

Which was the best Australian racehorse of all time?  The history of horse racing in Australia, which dates back to the late eighteenth century, is awash with superstar horses, not all of whom, necessarily, received the worldwide recognition they deserved. Attempting to identify the ‘best’ Australian racehorse of all time is likely to prove engrossing and exasperating in equal measure, but let’s start with a mare with a perfect 25-25 record, namely Black Caviar.

Trained in Victoria by Peter Moody, Black Caviar first rose to prominence in November, 2010, when, as a four-year-old, she outclassed a high-quality field in the Patinack Farm Classic, over 6 furlongs, at Flemington. The following February, dropped back to 5 furlongs, she impressively won the Coolmore Lightning Stakes – a race that she would win again in 2012 and 2013 – and, the following month, carried 9st 2lb to a comfortable, 3-length victory in the Lexus Handicap, over 6 furlongs, on the same course.

In 2012, Black Caviar was barely extended to win her first five starts, all at odds of 1/10 or shorter, but did experience a heart-stopping moment in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. With the race seemingly in safe keeping, jockey Luke Nolen dropped his hands prematurely, allowing Moonlight Cloud to close within a head, before pushing Black Caviar along again close home.

Unlike Black Caviar, the other Australian wondermare of recent years, Winx, was beaten six times in her 43-race career. However, in May, 2015, she embarked on a winning streak that would last four years and 33 consecutive races – 25 of which were at Group 1 level – until the end of her career in April, 2019. During that period, she won the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, the Chipping Norton Stakes at Royal Randwick and the George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill Gardens four times apiece. Indeed, in January, 2014, by which time she had won 13 consecutive races, Winx was awarded a rating of 132 by Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, which was – albeit much to the surprise of many observers – the same as that awarded to Black Caviar.

Other candidates for the best Australian racehorse of all time include, in no particular order, Makybe Diva, Phar Lap and Carbine, all of whom were prolific winners. Makybe Diva has the distinction of being the most successful horse in the history of the Melbourne Cup, having won ‘the race that stops the nation’ three years running in 2003, 2004, 2005. Phar Lap won 37 of his 51 races during the Great Depression, including a easy victory in the 1930 Melbourne Cup under 9st 13lb, while, longer ago, Carbine, a.k.a. ‘Old Jack’, won 33 of his 43 races and set a weight-carrying record, 10st 5lb, when winning the 1890 Melbourne Cup.

 

Which were the top five Derby winners, according to Timeform?

Which were the top five Derby winners, according to Timeform?  Timeform ratings first appeared in ‘Racehorses of 1947’, published in 1948, and ever since have provided a matter-of-fact means of comparing racehorses from different generations. Of course, it can be argued that ratings of any description, Timeform or otherwise, are simply a matter of opinion, but the findings make for interesting reading all the same.

According to Timeform, Sea-Bird (145), who won the Derby on his only start in Britain, in 1965, remains the second highest-rated Flat horse since World War II, behind only Frankel (147). Trained in France by Etienne Pollett and ridden by Australian jockey Pat Glennon, Sea-Bird justified favouritism at Epsom in effortless fashion, beating subsequent Irish Derby winner Meadow Court by two lengths, despite being heavily eased in the closing stages.

The 1971 Derby winner Mill Reef (141) was beaten by Brigadier Gerard in the 2,000 Guineas, but proved himself the outstanding middle-distance horse of his generation by also winning the Coral-Eclipse, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Trained by Ian Badling and ridden by Geoff Lewis, Mill Reef travelled enthusiastically at Epsom and could be called the winner some way from home; at the line, he had two lengths to spare over Linden Tree.

Shergar (140) and Sea The Stars (140) share third place on the all-time list, according to Timeform. In 1981, Shergar, trained by Michael Stoute and ridden by Walter Swinburn, was sent off the shortest-priced Derby favourite since Sir Ivor in 1968. He turned Tattenham Corner still firmly on the bridle and stretched clear to win, eased down, by a record ten lengths. In 2009, Sea The Stars – who never won any race by more than 2½ lengths – was more workmanlike in his comfortable, 1¾-length defeat of Fame And Glory in the Derby. Nonetheless, he was described, quite rightly, as ‘one of the greats’ by winning jockey Mick Kinane immediately afterwards.

Likewise, Reference Point (139) and Generous (139) share fifth place. Trained by Henry Cecil and ridden by Steve Cauthen, Reference Point was sent off 6/4 favourite for the 1987 Derby and made most of the running, eventually coming home 1½ lengths ahead of Most Welcome in a course record time. Four years later, Generous, trained by Paul Cole and ridden by Alan Munro, was only fifth choice in the betting market, at 9/1, but was always travelling strongly and stormed clear to win by five lengths and seven from Marju and Star Of Gdansk.

 

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