Nothing too long here, just a quick review, for a short movie that I’m sure most people will miss. Dark Horse isn’t the greatest documentary I’ve ever seen, but I don’t normally even watch documentaries so that alone should recommend the movie. Americans love underdogs. We are underdogs. In a relatively young nation, our national mythology is the underdog. It plays into our beliefs, our political system (as it SHOULD work), our work ethic, and-though shaken-our ability to dream. Our national opinion is that anything should be possible. I know it hasn’t felt like that in a while. But for a big nation, we’ve always liked the little guy. We’ve always believed in long shots, and in the world of horse racing, Dream Alliance makes Seabiscuit look like a thoroughbred.
Dark Horse is about a group of pub regulars in a small town in Wales (oxymoron), who decided they were going to join the very posh, very upper crust world of English horse racing. So they became a collective, each paying £10/week to be part owners of the foal who Janet Vokes, one of their own, would breed. To clarify the wording of the previous sentence, Vokes was a professional breeder, not some kind of Welsh Centaur bar regular. She had a lot of professional experience as a breeder before seeing to the foaling of young Dream Alliance…..it’s just her experience was all with pigeons and whippets (the dogs, not the Devo song).
Dream Alliance, as the youngster was named, was most notable for…..pluck. The horse is, to put it kindly…..shapes. However, as the collective, as the bar patrons became known pushed forward with training him, he began to show a remarkable capacity for ignoring the physics of his own body and clocking impressive times more out of sheer doggedness (imagine a sofa with inflatable legs running and you kind of have an idea of Dream’s stride pattern). The documentary follows his unlikely journey from the most unlikely of beginnings, through setbacks and heartbreak, to the 2009 Welsh National and one of the biggest surprises in the sport’s history.
Dark Horse takes a little while to reel you in, but once it does, you just can’t believe that these people in a bar with a dream and a horse that didn’t so much gallop as lurch made racing history. It’s a great story, well-told, and definitely worth a rental.