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.

Was there once a racecourse in Newport, Gwent?

Yes, there was, although ‘Newport Racecourse’ was, in fact, in Caerleon, a suburban town on the northern outskirts of Newport. The first recorded meeting at the course was staged in August, 1845 and meetings continued until 1854. Thereafter, the racecourse fell out of favour for decades and the next recorded meeting at ‘Newport’ did not take place until November, 1899. Racing was suspended for World War I and again for World War II, but resumed in 1946 and continued until the final meeting in May, 1948.
In its heyday, Newport Racecourse briefly played host to both the Welsh Champion Hurdle and the Welsh Grand National, following the closure of Ely Racecourse in Cardiff, which was, prior to its closure in 1939, the leading racecourse in Wales. However, both principal races were transferred to Chepstow Racecourse, in Monmouthsire, following the demise of Newport Racecourse after World War II.

Wales is home to how many racecourses?

Nowadays, Wales is home to three racecourses, namely Bangor-on-Dee, Chepstow and Ffos Las. Historically, Wales was home to various other racecourses, including those at Cardiff, or Ely, Newport and Oswestry and Llanymynech, but by the middle of the twentieth century they had all closed their doors.

Not to be confused with the seaside resort of Bangor, in Gwynedd, northwest Wales, Bangor-on-Dee is a National Hunt venue in Clwyd, northeast Wales. The racecourse, which is situated approximately 6 miles south-east of Wrexham, on the banks of the River Dee, has the distinction of being the only one in Britain without a grandstand.

Chepstow, situated on the northern outskirts of the town of Chepstow, in Monmouthshire, southeast Wales, near the English border, is a dual-purpose racecourse. Billed as Wales’ premier racecourse, Chepstow is home to the most prestigious race of the year in Wales, the Welsh Grand National, which is staged annually on December 27.

Ffos Las, situated just north of the former mining village of Trimsaran and approximately 4 miles east of Kidwelly, in Carmarthenshire, southwest Wales, is another dual-purpose racecourse. Built on the site of a former open cast coal mine, Ffos Las opened in 2009, making it the first new turf racecourse in Britain for 80 years.