Phar Lap

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Tommy Woodcock with Phar Lap (1930).

Phar Lap was also the name of a computer software company

Phar Lap was a thoroughbred horse who is considered by many to be one of the world's greatest racehorses. He is sometimes called "Australia's wonder horse".

Phar Lap was foaled in Timaru, New Zealand in 1926. The name Phar Lap derives from the shared Zhuang and Thai word for lightning[1] ( He was purchased for just over $300 and taken to Australia by the new owner, American-born sportsman, David J. Davis.

In his four years of racing, Phar Lap won 37 of the 51 races in which he was entered, including the prestigious Melbourne Cup in 1930. In that year and 1931, he won 14 races in a row. From his win as a 3 year old in the VRC St. Leger Stakes until his final race in Mexico, Phar Lap won 32 of 35 races. In the three races which he did not win, he ran 2nd on two occassions, beaten by a short head and a neck, and in the 1931 Melbourne Cup he finished 8th when carrying 10st 10lbs (68kg).

In 1930, someone (alleged to have been a bookmaker losing vast amounts of money) tried to shoot the horse.

For his final race in 1932, Phar Lap's owner shipped him by boat to a racetrack near Tijuana, Mexico to compete in the Agua Caliente Handicap, which was offering the largest purse ever raced for in North America. Phar Lap won in track-record time while carrying 129 pounds (58.5 kg). From there, the horse was sent to a private ranch near Menlo Park, California while his owner negotiated with racetrack officials for special race appearances.

Missing image
Promotional poster from the 1983 Phar Lap film.

Early on April 5, 1932, the horse's trainer found him in severe pain, carrying a high temperature. Within a few hours, Phar Lap hemorrhaged to death. Much speculation ensued, and when an autopsy revealed that the horse's stomach and intestines were inflamed, many believed the horse had been deliberately poisoned. There have been alternate theories, including accidental poisoning from lead insecticide and a stomach condition. At any rate, he never had the opportunity to confront Equipoise, the dominant American thoroughbred racehorse of the day and an exceptional performer in his own right.

So fond of the horse were the people of Australia and New Zealand that following his death, his heart was donated to the Institute of Anatomy in Canberra and his skeleton to the New Zealand National Museum in Wellington. After preparations of the hide by a New York City taxidermist, his stuffed body was placed in the Australia Gallery at Melbourne Museum.

When news of Phar Lap's death reached Australia, many sporting champions paid tribute to the great horse, including Australia's leading cyclist, Hubert Opperman who said, "I am not a follower of horse-racing, but like every Australian with red blood in their veins, I have followed with close interest Phar Lap's gallops to world fame. Even during the Tour de France, I've had strangers ask after our champion racehorse, and had it been possible for him to visit the Continent, he would have been received with royal honours. He was truly a great boost for Australia and, like every other Australian, I mourn his passing. In my opinion, there is nothing maudlin in a nation mourning the loss of a racehorse when that horse is Phar Lap."

Several books and films have been written about the horse, including the 1983 movie, Phar Lap or Phar Lap: Heart of a Nation. A song, "Phar Lap—Farewell To You", was also written.

In the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, Phar Lap was ranked #22.

Racing Record

 1928-29 Season as a 2 year old

 -    RRC Nursery Hcp   5 1/2f   6.11  Exact 1st
 -    Hawkesbury Two Year Old Hcp   5f   7.3   Sheila 1st
 -    RRC Nursery Hcp   6f   6.7   My Talisman 1st
 -    AJC Easter Stakes   7f   7.6   Carradale 1st
Won   RRC Maiden Juvenile Hcp   6f   7.9   Voleuse 2nd

 1929-30 Season as a 3 year old

 -    AJC Denham Court Hcp   6f   7.2   Killarney 1st
 -    RRC Three Year Old Hcp   7f   7.13   Firbolg dh1st, King Crow dh1st
 -    RRC Three & FourYear Old Hcp   7f   7.6   Ticino 1st
 -    AJC Warwick Stakes (wfa)   8f   7.6   Limerick 1st
2nd   Tatts Chelmsford Stakes   9f   7.6   Mollison 1st
Won   RRC Rosehill Guineas    9f   8.5   Lorason 2nd.
Won   AJC Derby   12f   8.10  Carradale 2nd
Won   AJC Craven Plate (wfa)   10f   7.8   Mollison 2nd
Won   VRC Derby   12f   8.10   Carradale 2nd
3rd   VRC Melbourne Cup   2m   7.6   Nightmarch 1st
3rd   VATC St. George Stakes   9f   8.10   Amounis 1st
Won   VRC St. Leger Stakes   14f   8.10   Sir Ribble 2nd
Won   VRC Governer's Plate (wfa)   12f   7.13   Lineage 2nd
Won   VRC King's Plate (wfa)   2m   7.11   Second Wind 2nd
Won   AJC Chipping Norton Stakes   10f   8.10   Amounis 2nd
Won   AJC St. Leger   14f   8.10   Sir Ribble 2nd
Won   AJC Cumberland Stakes (wfa)   14f   8.1   Donald 2nd
Won   AJC Plate (wfa)   2 1/4m   7.13   Nightmarch 2nd
Won   SAJC Elder Stakes (wfa)   9f   8.4   Fruition 2nd
Won   SAJC King's Cup   12f   9.5   Nadean 2nd

 1930-31 Season as a 4 year old

2nd   AJC Warwick Stakes (wfa)   8f   8.11   Amounis 1st
Won   Tatts Chelmsford Stakes   9f   9.4   Nightmarch 2nd
Won   RRC Hill Stakes   8f   9.4   Nightmarch 2nd
Won   AJC Spring Stakes (wfa)   12f   8.11   Nightmarch 2nd
Won   AJC Cravan Plare (wfa)   10f   8.11   Nightmarch 2nd
Won   AJC Randwick Plate (wfa)   2m   8.11   Donald 2nd
Won   MVRC W.S. Cox Plate (wfa)   9 1/2f   8.11   Tregilla 2nd
Won   VRC Melbourne Stakes (wfa)   10f   8.11   Tregilla 2nd
Won   VRC Melbourne Cup   2m   9.12   Second Wind 2nd
Won   VRC Linlithgow Stakes (wfa)   8f   8.12   Mollison 2nd
Won   VRC C.B. Fisher Plate (wfa)   12f   8.12   Second Wind
Won   VATC St. George Stakes   9f   9.7   Induna 2nd
Won   VATC Futurity Stakes   7f   10.3   Mystic Peak 2nd
Won   VRC Essendon Stakes (wfa)   10f   8.7   Lampra 2nd
Won   VRC King's Plate   12f   9.7   Glare 2nd
2nd   VRC C.M. Lloyd Stakes   8f   9.7   Waterline 1st

 1931-32 Season as a 5 year old

Won   WRC Underwood Stakes (wfa)   8f    9.0   Rondalina 2nd
Won   VATC Memsie Stakes   9f   9.8   Rondalina 2nd
Won   RRC Hill Stakes (wfa)   8f   9.0   Chide 2nd
Won   AJC Spring Stakes (wfa)   12f    9.2   Chide 2nd
Won   AJC Cravan Plate (wfa)   10f   9.1   Pentheus 2nd
Won   AJC Randwick Plate (wfa)   2m   9.3   Chide 2nd
Won   MVRC W.S. Cox Plate (wfa)   9 1/2f   9.4   Chatham 2nd
Won   VRC Melbourne Stakes (wfa)   10f   9.1   Concentrate 2nd
8th   VRC Melbourne Cup   2m   10.10   White Nose 1st
Won   Agua Caliente Hcp   10f   9.3   Reveille Boy 2nd

TOTAL   51 Starts   37 Wins   3 seconds   2 thirds   9 unplaced

External links

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