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Page last updated at 09:31 GMT, Thursday, 8 April 2010 10:31 UK

Dream Alliance set for Grand National spotlight

John Smith's Grand National, Aintree, Saturday, 1615 BST
Coverage BBC One/BBC HD/BBC Radio 5 live/online, with other races also across the BBC 8-10 April. Highlights: 0030 BST, BBC Two

By Peter Shuttleworth

Tom O'Brien celebrates his Welsh National win on Dream Alliance
The Welsh National was Tom O'Brien's first win after suffering a broken leg

Grand National hopeful Dream Alliance will "thrive being centre of attention" when the 33-1 chance enters the limelight at Aintree on Saturday.

The nine-year-old has been in media glare before Saturday's showpiece due to his amazing story of recovering from career-saving steam cell surgery.

Dream Alliance won the Welsh National after a quiet build-up but he has been backed to deal with the Aintree hype.

"The 70,000 crowd won't faze him," said syndicate manager Howard Davies.

Dream Alliance's remarkable story has been the subject of much media attention and has also interested Hollywood scriptwriters.

As the 22-strong Welsh syndicate that owns the Philip Hobbs-trained horse have signed a one-year exclusivity deal with Los Angeles-based film company Gold Rush to take their story to the big screen.

'The Dream Partnership' syndicate was formed when members answered an advert pinned on the wall of a Gwent Valleys social club.

He loves the camera and thrives on attention - and hopefully that will stand him in good stead for the most watched race in the world

Dream Alliance breeder Jan Vokes

The horse was born on a disused allotment on an old slagheap in Cefn Fforest near Caerphilly and bred by an old breeder of racing pigeons who "knew nothing about race horses."

The syndicate hoped to enter their "best friend" at the 2008 Grand National after he won the 2007 Perth Gold Cup and finished second to Denman at the Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury.

The Welsh gelding enjoyed a little hype before the 2007 Welsh National but failed to live up to expectations as he pulled-up to allow Grand National winner Miko De Beauchene gallop clear and claim the title.

And bad went to worse as Dream Alliance served a tendon in his leg - an injury that could end an animal's life, let alone career - at the 2008 Grand National meeting in the handicap hurdle.

But pioneering stem cell surgery rescued his career and he returns to the scene of his darkest hour as reigning Welsh champion hoping to complete a sporting fairytale at arguably the most famous horse race in the world.

An estimated worldwide audience of 600m, plus the 70,000 in the Aintree stands, will watch Dream Alliance and his 39 Grand National rivals bid to win the four-and-a-half mile marathon.

Dream Alliance was under the radar until his Welsh win at Chepstow in December but he is among the most-publicised entries in Saturday's £925,000 spectacle.

But his owners are confident the glare of the limelight will not affect the attention-loving horse - who will be ridden by 2007 National runner-up and Welsh National hero Tom O'Brien.

"He will turn up on Saturday and thrive on the attention," said Davies.

"The hype was a concern. As after coming second to Denman in the Hennessey, he came to the 2007 Welsh National as favourite and pulled up so the low after such a build-up hurt.

"Dream enjoyed a pretty low-key build-up before the Welsh but after his victory, with his incredible story, he was racing's headline news.


"In the National build-up, Philip Hobbs accepted we can't duck the media but he has protected the horse from any attention so Dream is blissfully unaware of the challenge that is coming his way on Saturday."

Breeder Jan Vokes knows Dream Alliance perhaps better than anyone and is sure her "carefree gentleman" has the character to deal with the spotlight.

"He is so laissez-faire and doesn't get agitated," said Vokes.

"That is a big reason why he recovered so well from his operation.

"He loves the camera and thrives on attention - and hopefully that will stand him in good stead for the most watched race in the world!"

Dream Alliance's story epitomises the underdog spirit of the Grand National and his remarkable tale has captured the imagination of the part-time tipster - and made minor celebrities of the syndicate.

And Davies joked: "Over half-a-billion people will be watching Cefn Fforest on Saturday, that is kind of spooky."

Davies, however, is confident his dreams can come true "if he gets around" the 30-fence course.

"When he suffered the injury in 2008, he was running into fourth-place," said Davies.

"So he probably has a top ten chance and I believe if he gets around, he will be in the top six.

"But after what he has been through him lining up for the Grand National is an achievement in itself for the syndicate."


Dream Alliance's National fairytale

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see also
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Carberry rides National contender
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McCoy picks Grand National ride
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BBC to show Grand National in HD
29 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Dream Alliance is a Grand chance
23 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Alliance fulfils a valley's dreams
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Dream Alliance wins Welsh honours
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Dream return to racing
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BBC racing coverage
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