July 5, 2005 — Opening nationwide in the U.S. on October 21, the movie “Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story” tells the story of a father who, for the love of his daughter, sacrifices almost everything to save the life of an injured racehorse and bring the promising filly back to her former glory. The film stars Kurt Russell (“Miracle”), Dakota Fanning (“War of the Worlds”) and Kris Kristofferson (“Lone Star”).
Ben Crane (Russell) was once a great horseman, whose gifts as a trainer are now being wasted on making other men’s fortunes. Soñador, called Sonya, was a great horse whose promising future on the racetrack was suddenly cut short by a career-ending broken leg. Considered as good as dead to her owner, Ben’s boss, Sonya is given to Ben as severance pay, along with his walking papers. Now it will take the faith and determination of Ben’s daughter, Cale (Fanning), to bring these two damaged souls together in a quest for a seemingly impossible goal: to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Kristofferson stars as Ben’s father whose strained relationship with his son is bridged by their mutual hopes for Sonya.
Horses that have battled the odds to achieve the seemingly impossible have always been the ones that capture our imagination and hearts. John Gatins, the writer/director of “Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story,” knew that, having spent most of his life steeped in the world of horses and horseracing.
“I was only 10 when I went to the racetrack for the first time,” Gatins said. “The way the New York papers described the horses–they gave them personalities; the race horses came alive as actual characters. I thought it would be great to make a movie about those characters. I started going to the racetrack and following them like athletes, watching their careers as they started going for the big races, the classics. These horses are bred to race, they are bred to be super athletes, but some horses just have more heart and drive.”
Gatins knew having that kind of heart and drive sometimes means more than just winning races. He wanted to write a screenplay about a horse who overcame the odds, so he started researching stories of horses who came back from what should have been career-ending–if not life-ending–injuries. It was then that he came across the story of one remarkable mare named Mariah’s Storm.
A promising filly, Mariah’s Storm was quickly building points towards a bid in the 1993 Breeders’ Cup–in which she would have been one of the favorites–when she suddenly fractured a left front cannon bone in the Alcibiades Stakes. An injury that severe could have ended her career, but her owners and trainers did not lose faith. The fracture eventually healed, but the question of whether or not she would ever race again remained.
The question was soon answered. In September 1993, before her injury, Mariah’s Storm had won the Arlington Washington Lassie, a Grade II stakes race for two-year-old fillies. After her recovery, in August 1994, she came back to win the Arlington Heights Oaks, a Grade III stakes race for three-year-old fillies. In September 1995 she won the Arlington Matron Handicap, a Grade III stakes race for three-year-old and older females, making her the only horse ever to win all three stakes races for her age class at Arlington. Her achievement was so unprecedented that there is now a race at Arlington Park named for her: the Mariah’s Storm Stakes. In 1995, Mariah’s Storm also won the 1995 Turfway Breeders’ Cup.
Perhaps the most telling sign of Mariah’s Storm’s original promise has come in her progeny. She is the dam to several racing champions, the most notable of which is Giant’s Causeway, the 2000 Horse of the Year and the sire of Noble Causeway, who most recently raced in the 2005 Kentucky Derby.
Other than her injury and recovery, the life and career of Mariah’s Storm bears little resemblance to that of the horse at the center of Gatins’ fictional screenplay. However, Gatins was so impressed by her courage, determination and legacy that Mariah’s Storm became the main inspiration for his script.
For more information on “Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story,” visit the official movie website.