Maybe some day, years from now, some filmmaker will make a heroic sports movie about Tom Brady or LeBron James. Maybe. But most heroic sports movies aren’t about athletes like those two, who are great from the get-go and win lots of championships over long careers.
No, most heroic sports movies are about scrappy underdogs who come out of nowhere to win championships. (And yes, smart alecs, Air Mail Pilot knows that James will be starring as himself in a remake of Space Jam this summer, but that’s totally different.)
A very good and entertaining heroic sports movie is playing in theaters right now: Dream Horse, based on the true story of a racehorse that was bred not by a sheikh or a guy who owns half of Kentucky but by a supermarket clerk living in a small, depressed mining town in Wales.
Her horse, named Dream Alliance, went on to win the Welsh National derby. The breeder, Jan Vokes (played by Toni Collette in the movie), had no experience with racehorses (though she had bred whippets and pigeons). With the backing of townspeople who formed what’s called a syndicate to pay for the horse’s expenses—23 people chipped in £10 a week, or about $14 in today’s money—Vokes raised Dream Alliance until he was three, when she brought him to one of the United Kingdom’s top trainers.
The rest was history, except Dream Alliance’s story got even better because, just as he was beginning to win races, he tore a tendon in one of his forelegs—an injury that would normally end a horse’s career and probably even cause him to be euthanized. But thanks to cutting edge stem-cell treatment, Dream Alliance returned to racing, winning the Welsh National as a 20 to 1 long shot. Yay! Cheers! The end!
Except that the real-life Hollywood ending took place in 2009. Here’s the real-life sequel:
Dream Alliance never won another race and retired from racing in 2012. Vokes, who still works at the supermarket, had wanted to bring him back home to her Welsh mining town, which has the interesting name of Cefn Fforest. But other members of the syndicate felt the horse should retire in a more bucolic setting where he could roam freely, so he now lives on a farm in Somerset, England. Meanwhile, Vokes has a new young horse she’s hoping to race, named Phoenix Dream (no relation).
Dream Alliance’s current owner is Clare Sandercock, who helped care for him when he was training. As she recently told the Daily Mail, “Dreamy”—his nickname—“still has the odd niggle with his injury…. We don’t gallop these days, mainly just plod along country roads.” As for the winless backstretch of his career, she explained, “He can be quite stubborn and I think he felt he had done it and proved himself so there was no need to do it all over again.”
Fair enough! Now tell that to Tom Brady and LeBron James. Please. (Full disclosure: Air Mail Pilot is not a Tampa Bay Buccaneers or L.A. Lakers fan.)
Dream Horse is in theaters now
When Serena Minott and her eight-year-old daughter Asha Gore couldn’t find children’s travel books that featured characters who looked like Asha, they decided to create their own.
“Growing up as a girl in Jamaica, I would never have thought that I would become an adult who would live in France and be able to travel to all these places,” Serena, whose family splits their time between Miami and Toulouse, France, says. “But if at the time I had a book to show me that, Oh, there’s a big world out there, why not me?,” she might have dared to dream. “And that’s our hope, that other children can see themselves in these books,” a children’s series which Serena and Asha have titled The Amazing Adventures of Aya and Pete.
A trained attorney, Serena didn’t have much experience with the world of publishing before embarking on the first book. “It’s like peeling an onion,” she says. “Taking off the layers and figuring out bit by bit how this could possibly be done. And I never imagined at the time that it would turn into what it has now. You know, now it’s a bonafide business.”
Now, the mother and daughter sell their books via Amazon, and they’ve recently launched the series in Nordstroms. Currently a collection of three books, the series follows an intrepid young girl named Aya and her cuddly pet sloth, Pete, who travel together to some of the world’s most-loved cities: London, Paris, and New York.
Next, Serena and Asha are planning to branch out to lesser-known destinations—“Perhaps Madagascar or Costa Rica,” says Serena, “places that really don’t get a lot of attention when we think about traveling, and places to go that aren’t so mainstream. Because the whole idea with the books is to also expose children to cultures and things that are unfamiliar.”
But more important than the destinations the protagonists visit, “I wanted to create books that were for children to show them some of the things that we have seen and experienced and for us to have something to read together,” says Serena. “I was ready for Asha to have something on her bookshelf that she could relate to.”