Dark Horse | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Dark Horse

Engaging documentary tells feel-good story about a working-class race horse from a Welsh coal town

Dream Alliance, flanked by two of his owners
Dream Alliance, flanked by two of his owners

There are some things that generally only rich people do, like own race horses. Louise Osmond’s engaging documentary Dark Horse recounts the story of some working-class folk and their scrappy horse who challenged this assertion.

It was an idea born of bar chatter in a depressed Welsh coal town — to raise a competitive horse. Something for people to do — “a working-class horse [to] take on the likes of the best — that was the dream.”

A couple dozen local “investors” kick in 10 pounds a week. With this sum, they set up a bargain mare and stud to breed; collect the foal and raise it at the community garden; and hire a top trainer. Over pints, the group democratically picks a wonderfully awful name for the horse — Dream Alliance.

Osmond uses archival footage, some recreations, and contemporary interviews with participants; Dream Alliance’s many owners prove a colorful, camera-ready lot, eager to tell the tale of how all and sundry discounted them and their horse. Because Dream surprises everyone by doing well — very well. So a giddy group of owners, with their tattoos, missing teeth and worn clothing, makes the rounds at increasingly posher racetracks. 

If Hollywood scripted this, it’d be dismissed as too cheesy, too formulaic. But it’s a feel-good real-life story. Win, lose or spend the day in the pasture eating grass, Dream was worth every cent. Said one team member: “He always made me feel [like] someone else for the day. When we went to the races, I wasn’t Janet the cleaner, I was Janet the race-horse owner.”

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