Fundraising campaign started after suspected arson attack
The equine world has united in support of breeders Jan and Brian Vokes, with a JustGiving page set up to help raise funds following a suspected arson attack on their stables that left one horse dead and another with severe injuries.
Sunday's shocking attack at the stable where fairytale 2009 Welsh Grand National winner Dream Alliance grew up has brought the racing and wider horse communities together, as messages of condolences and offers of assistance have poured into the distraught owner-breeders.
Impossible Dream, a two-year-old colt described as a "rising star", died in the blaze in Cefn Fforest, south Wales, while Juwireya, a ten-year-old mare, suffered serious burns to her head, neck and back.
Jan Vokes has offered a £500 reward for information that leads to an arrest and said on Monday: "I've had private messages from horse people all over the world because of the Dream Alliance story and we've been offered donations.
"What's happened is unbelievable and Martin Jones, who had Impossible Dream for us and broke him in and got him going, said he was one of the best young horses he'd had in there for a long time. He said people wouldn't realise we'd lost a rising star who would have done well on the racetrack. We're heartbroken beyond words."
Vokes, who was due to send Impossible Dream to Dream Alliance's former trainer Philip Hobbs, added: "We've not had any update from the police. Because we've put up the reward I don't think it'll be long before someone comes out of the woodwork."
Artist Phil Boulton, who mainly specialises in equine works, is keen to help and has offered a commission for a painting with the proceeds going to help the grief-stricken breeders.
"I've spoken to nine artists who are willing to contribute a commission to paint for the highest bidder," said Boulton, who is co-ordinating the project and can be contacted via his Facebook page Phil Boulton-Artist and on email at email@example.com.
"I've had one bid of £250 already and hopefully we can beat that. I wanted to do something and couldn't give a lot of money myself, but can perhaps do something to raise some."
Anyone with information about the arson attack can call Wales Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Donations to the JustGiving page raising money for the rehabilitation of Juwireya and the rebuilding of the Vokes's stable can be made here.
The Dream Alliance fairytale
Few racing stories have more accurately embodied the phrase 'rags to riches' than Welsh National winner Dream Alliance, who was reared on a slag-heap allotment in the poor mining village of Cefn Fforest.
Jan Vokes had no experience of racing before breeding Dream Alliance but formed a 23-strong syndicate at the local working men's club, where she worked as a barmaid, with each member paying £10 a week.
Born in 2001, Dream Alliance spent the first 12 months on Vokes's allotment before moving to Philip Hobbs's yard aged three. He proved a hit on the track, winning three races in 2006 and finishing second behind Denman in the 2007 Hennessy.
The following year Dream Alliance ran in a hurdle race at the Grand National festival and suffered what could have been a fatal injury when a rear hoof cut through the back of a front leg and sliced a tendon.
The syndicate voted unanimously to spend £20,000 on stem-cell surgery to help the leg recover, although a return to racing was extremely unlikely regardless.
Remarkably, Dream Alliance made it back to the track and achieved his crowning glory on December 28, 2009, when he stormed to victory at odds of 20-1 in the Welsh National at Chepstow, on just his second run back from injury.
Part-owner Maldwyn Thomas summed it up best: "He was bred in Cefn Fforest and born on the top of a flattened coal tip in an old mining colliery. He came into the world overlooking the valleys and spent his first 12 months in a tin shed. Now he's won the Welsh National!"
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