(Jan Voxes, et al / DVD / PG / 2016 / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Overview: Set in Wales, 'Dark Horse' is the inspirational true story of a group of friends who decide to take on the elite ‘sport of kings’ and breed themselves a racehorse. Raised on a slagheap allotment, their foal grows into an unlikely champion, beating the finest thoroughbreds in the land, before suffering a near fatal accident. Nursed back to health by the love of his owners, he makes a remarkable recovery, returning to the track for a heart-stopping comeback.
DVD Verdict: An inspirational true story of a group of friends from a working men's club who decide to take on the elite 'sport of kings' and breed themselves a racehorse, knowing that beforehand makes watching 'Dark Horse' all the more engrossing, trust me.
Refreshingly alternative to the overproduced American love stories - whether they be ones telling the tales of humans or of animals - 'Dark Horse' (filmed in black and white, no less) features en masse of flawed versions of both. For the most part though, it's the characters who are flawed the most, but in a story like this, where a form of redemption is awaiting each and every one of them (seemingly) at the finish line, isn't that why we love these films so dearly in the first place.
As the story unfolds, and without giving everything away, 'Dark Horse' concerns the career of a racehorse called Dream Alliance. Owned by a motley crew of 30 working class Welsh men and women, bred by the cleaner at Asda, he his marked by what could best be described as a bit of a dray horse with literally no discernible racecourse form whatsoever.
The subplot of the story is about class. The most noble, most royal and most privileged sport of them all (apart from, say, polo) is horse racing. So to enter the world of horse racing as a bunch of 30 complete amateurs who could barely afford the £10 a week the syndicate they formed in their local pub to breed and then race a horse was more than simply a "challenge" it was verging on the insane.
Slowly but surely Dream Alliance's story is told, from the search for his mother and father to his birth (caught on CCTV), his childhood being raised on an allotment and then his entry ("like a snotty nosed comprehensive schoolboy arriving at Eton") into Phillip Hobbs' Minehead yard.
It's perhaps ironic that Hobbs assistant trainer, Johnson White, who tells the story from the trainer's side has every familiarity with the concept of silver spoons and was initially horrified at the prospect of these oiks and their second rate unschooled horse infiltrating his yard. But as it turns out, and as so it does in real life also, money is money and all make out very well, of course.
Written and directed by Louise Osmond, 'Dark Horse' has its ups and downs, sure, and come the end suffice to say that this group of 30 shared in Dream Alliance's victories and losses well enough. That they seemed to have accomplished the impossible going from Nags to Riches over a several year period is just beyond a miracle - given the humble beginnings of where this story starts though. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of a Photo Gallery.