Directed by Euros Lyn, ‘Dream Horse’ is a sports–comedy movie that revolves around Jan Vokes, a bartender leading an uninspiring life who is desperately looking for the reason that makes her jump out of her bed every morning. While working at the bar one evening, she overhears Howard, a tax adviser, talking about a racehorse he once owned. The story somehow inspires her, and Jan not only gets obsessed with the idea but convinces her neighbors to chip in some money to breed, raise and train a racehorse.
Surprising the racing establishment that mocks Jan and her dreams, the racehorse ends up winning the Welsh Grand National race. However, the elusive dream is not as easy to achieve as it may sound. The story of grit, determination touched the hearts of millions of viewers around the world, who may wonder if the film is rooted in fiction or if it takes inspiration from real-life events. So, let’s jump right in and learn everything about the origins of ‘Dream Horse.’
Is Dream Horse Based on a True Story?
Yes, ‘Dream Horse’ is based on a true story. The film familiarizes the audience with the inspiring life of Janet Vokes, who was going through a similar crisis in life as is portrayed in the movie. She was occupied during the day working at a local supermarket, and in the evening, Janet had to rush to the bar where she worked as a bartender at the local working men’s club. In between the two jobs, she also had the responsibility to take care of her ailing parent, which means she hardly had time for herself. Irrespective of this, Janet never stopped looking for something that inspired her to jump out of her bed every morning.
Just like in the film, Janet was motivated to research racehorses when she overheard Howard Davies talking about his experiences of owning one. Her research soon becomes an obsession, and Janet, along with her husband, Brain, bought a broodmare, Rewbell, for £350 ($494). The couple then bred her with a thoroughbred racehorse named Bien Bien. Then, in 2001, Rewbell gave birth to a foul who later became Dream Alliance, the horse that surpassed everyone’s expectations.
Although Janet previously had some experience raising and breeding other animals, a racehorse came with its own challenges. So, she made a group, and Davies, the local tax adviser, became its manager. About 23 people later joined the ownership syndicate, and Janet started collecting £10 per week to invest in Dream’s diet and other expenses. When he was 3-years-old, Dream met his future trainer Philip Hobbs, who has expertise in national racing. Davies had estimated that it would take an investment of £15,000 ($21,143) every year to raise the racehorse, and all the expenses, including Dream’s training, were covered by the members of the syndicate.
Dream participated in his first race on November 10, 2004, but his first win only came in January 2006 in his fourth race after years of training and hard work. There were several ups and downs in his career after that, including an injury in 2008 that required surgery and fifteen months of rehabilitation. After his return in 2009, Dream won the Welsh Grand National and shocked everyone. Although he participated in several other races in the following years, Dream did not find much success, probably because of his lung condition, and retired in 2012.
From being raised in Cefn Fforest to winning the Welsh Grand National was no ordinary feat in itself. Speaking about it, Janet told a news agency, “At the time, to us, we were just excited that we managed to breed a horse who would get on the racecourse, never mind do what he did. It’s surreal. It’s unbelievable.” The 2009 Welsh Grand National win was even more shocking for her, and remembering the event, she said, “It was like being in a bubble. You could see it had happened; he had just won, and it was as if it was complete silence and everything was in slow motion. But in reality, there was chaos going on around you.”
Janet added, “It was just an uproar. All that was going on in the background, and I was just looking and thinking to myself ‘Did that really happen? Did he just win?’ It was strange.” Even though the story is set in Wales, the director of ‘Horse Dream,’ Euros Lyn, said in an interview that it has the power to inspire rust belt communities around the world who may relate to the story. Such communities have undergone severe changes in the past century. The overwhelming majority of people in the rust belt used to be miners and steelworkers, but with industrialization and automation, such jobs have become rare.
Such a shift has come at a considerable price, and the workers now find themselves without jobs which obviously affects their confidence. Nevertheless, Lyn hopes that people from these communities will watch the autobiographical sports-comedy film and get inspired to dream big, realizing that they still have hope. After his retirement, Dream was sent to live in Somerset, away from Janet.
Although the syndicate members are still allowed to meet him, Janet does not like to go because she gets very emotional. According to her walking away is the most challenging thing, and she probably doesn’t want to do it anymore. Although the story of Jan and Dream sounds unbelievable, ‘Dream Horse’ accurately depicts a real-life event, giving it an inspiring touch.
Read More: Where Was Dream Horse Filmed?