What is the Dream Alliance Story?

The barely credible story of Dream Alliance was recorded for posterity in the film ‘Dark Horse’, which won the World Cinema Documentary Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. The syndicate that owned Dream Alliance, known as the ‘Alliance Partnership’, was the brainchild of Janet ‘Jan’ Vokes, who hit upon the idea of breeding a racehorse while working as a barmaid in a working men’s club in Cefn Fforest, on the outskirts of Blackwood, in the South Wales Valleys.

Together with her husband, Brian, and twenty or so other local people, Vokes raised £300 to buy the unheralded mare Rewbell, whom she paired with Bien Bien, twice a Grade One winner on the Flat in the United States, and Dream Alliance. Foaled on March 23, 2001, Dream Alliance was initially raised on the Vokes’ allotment, before being transferred to Somerser trainer Philip Hobbs, with each syndicate member contributing £10 a week towards training costs.

Dream Alliance made his racecourse debut, as a three-year-old, at Newbury in November, 2004. The following season, after 350-day break, which included a gelding operation, he won twice over hurdles, at Chepstow and Haydock, and even made an appearance at the Cheltenham Festival, albeit finishing unplaced in the Spa Novices’ Hurdle won by Black Jack Ketchum. Dream Alliance made a winning debut over fences at Exeter in November, 2006, and on his seasonal debut in 2007/08 finished a creditable second to Denman in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury.

At the end of that season, his racing career hung in the balance when he struck into himself, severing a tendon, in a hurdle race at Aintree. However, following stem-cell treatment, which cost connections £20,000, he returned to racing. On just his second start back from injury, he won the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow, worth over £57,000 to the winner.

What is a ‘syndicate’?

In horse racing, a ‘syndicate’ is a group of like-minded people that comes together or, indeed, is brought together by a syndicator – who can be an individual or a company, must be registered with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) – to purchase ownership of a racehorse. The cost of buying and training a racehorse is prohibitively expensive for most people, at least if they do so for themselves. The idea behind horse syndication is that each syndicate member buys a fixed share, say, 2.5%, 5% or 10%, in one or more horses and makes a contribution towards the annual costs – such as farrier, veterinary and, of course, training, fees – needed to keep the horse fit, healthy and ready to run for its life.

In other words, instead of the whole cost of ownership being laid at the door of one, extremely wealthy individual, it is split between multiple part-owners. Of course, owners also share any winnings their horses accumulate during their involvement but, even so, most people consider syndicate membership as a relatively inexpensive way to enjoy personal involvement with, and a stake in, racehorses, rather than a lucrative investment opportunity. Of course, it is possible make large of sums of money from horse syndication but, for many owners, the best way to make a small fortune from horse racing is to start with a large one.