Love story between horse and villagers hits the big screen

(CNN)It's an unlikely love story that took an unheralded horse from a stable on a Welsh slag heap to arguably the world's most famous jump race -- and his unconventional owners from the remote Welsh Valleys to the big screen of the Sundance Film Festival.

Not a bad return for a small-time syndicate whose interest was piqued by a poster pinned up in the bar of a working men's club in a recession-hit mining village a decade ago -- and an animal with Hollywood good looks who was almost put down after suffering a serious injury.
"It said on an A4 sheet of paper, 'To breed a horse to get on a course. From there anything is a bonus,''" Howard Davies, part-owner of former Grand National entrant Dream Alliance, told CNN ahead of Saturday's marquee event at Aintree.
"I had three pints in my hand and Jan Vokes (the bar tender) said, 'You used to have a racehorse, I'm going to breed one.' I said, 'good luck,' and sat down.
    "She came over and said, 'I'm serious. We need your knowledge of how to set up a syndicate and manage it.'"
    Davies, a retired tax consultant and former racehorse owner, calculated that if 30 investors paid $15 a week they could finance the annual $22,000 required to raise a racehorse.
    With 25 villagers persuaded to fund the scheme, Vokes paired mare Rewbell with stud Bien Bien to give birth to Dream Alliance in 2001.
    The handsome chestnut was raised in a DIY stable built by Jan's husband Brian on a slag heap allotment, the hilly remains of Cefn Fforest's coal mining past.
    From these humble beginnings he was sent to school with Phillip Hobbs, a respected trainer with 2,000 winners to his credit, and slowly the Alliance Partnership's investment began to reap rewards.
    "Dream surprised everyone by saying 'ooh this is fun' and finishing fourth of 17 in his first race," said Davies. "Then he came fourth, second, third, first, first and that's when everything took off."
    This year Dream's tale has been turned into a film, titled "Dark Horse," which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, but the story wouldn't be movie material without a twist in the tale.
    Jumping for home in the Handicap Hurdle at Aintree in 2008, he suffered a life-threatening injury, severing a tendon in his leg.
    The syndicate agreed to use $30,000 from his prize pot to save his life and pay for pioneering stem-cell surgery.
    Their second gamble paid off as less than two years later, Dream Alliance won the high-profile Welsh National in staggering style. He remains one of a hand