Not that anyone expected much from Dream Alliance at the beginning. Even though he was sent off to expensive trainer Philip Hobbs, the racing community looked down on him. He was nearly written off twice in his career. First, before he’d even started because of his poor upbringing, and the second time when a life-threatening injury threatened to derail his success.
But if this film belongs to anyone, it’s Jan. It was the spirited part-time barmaid who came up with the hare-brained idea to breed a racehorse by buying a thoroughbred mare for £300 and putting her out to stud. She’d only dabbled in racing pigeons and rearing show whippets before but she didn’t care that she had no experience. Instead, she dared to dream big and managed to convince a whole village to dream with her, so they could all for one brief, heady moment experience life without class boundaries.
The documentary charts her journey as she sets out to do something for herself; it’s the story of a woman determined to define herself on her own terms after living a life with her identity firmly tied to her family. Osmond says: “That’s something a lot of people can relate to. She left school early, married young and had kids young. The animals have been her release. It was the thing she was able to excel at and use to show her talents.”
She singles out Jan’s “star quality” and talks about how impressed she was with her attitude to becoming a racehorse owner. “She is a very inspiring character. A lot of us looking forward would see the negatives but she didn’t see why it should prevent her doing it. She liked stirring the pot and seeing if she could pull off something quite cheeky in this elite world.”
The director has tackled a range of diverse subjects in her documentaries but one common theme has emerged. From Deep Water (2006), about a sailor who goes on a solo, non-stop boat race around the world, to The Beckoning Silence (2007), the story of a team of climbers scaling a mountain, and now Dark Horse, these are tales of people battling against crazy odds and yet hell-bent on fulfilling their dream no matter what.
Osmond muses: “I’m always looking for stories that move me and it comes down to characters who are trying to find a way to express themselves and often that’s through some quest or obsession. I find that very human. We try to move through our lives by finding a voice.”