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.