Phar Lap

Phar Lap

Thoroughbred racehorse infobox
horsename = Phar Lap

caption = Phar Lap with jockey Jim Pike riding at Flemington race track c 1930
sire = Night Raid
dam = Entreaty
damsire = Winkie
sex = Male (gelded)
foaled = 1926
country = New Zealand
colour = Chestnut
breeder = Alick Roberts
owner = David Davis
trainer = Harry Telford
record = 51:37-3-2
earnings = £66,738
race =AJC Derby (1928)
Linlithgow Stakes (1929)
Victoria Derby (1929)
Futurity Stakes (1930)
Melbourne Cup (1930)
Chipping Norton Stakes (1930)
Cox Plate (1930 & 1931)
Melbourne Stakes (1930 & 1931)
Underwood Stakes (1931)
Agua Caliente Handicap (1932)
awards =
honours = #22 - Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century
1983 Motion Picture - ""
Australian Racing Hall of Fame
New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame (2006)
updated = December 4, 2007
: "For the computer software, see: Phar Lap (company)".

Phar Lap, a giant chestnut thoroughbred gelding, is considered to be Australia and New Zealand's greatest racehorse. He is a much loved national icon in both countries. At the time of his death in 1932, Phar Lap was the third highest stake-winner in the world. At the height of his powers, bookmakers offered very short odds on him, even refusing to accept any bets on some races.

Phar Lap was foaled on 4 October 1926 in Timaru in the South Island of New Zealand. He was sired by Night Raid (b United Kingdom 1918) out of dam Entreaty (b New Zealand 1920). However, he never raced in New Zealand; following his purchase he was taken to Australia where he dominated the racing scene during a long and distinguished racing career.

Standing 17.1 hands, he was sometimes called "Australia's wonder horse" in that country. He was also called "The Red Terror" and "Big Red", the same nicknames given to two of the greatest US racehorses, Man o' War and Secretariat.

His mounted hide is displayed at the Melbourne Museum, his skeleton at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and his heart at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.


The name Phar Lap derives from the shared Zhuang and Thai word for lightning (Thai: ฟ้าแลบ IPA|fáa lɛ̂p, lit. 'sky flash'). [Cite web |url= |title=Lightning |work=Phar L

According to the Museum Victoria, Aubrey Ping, studying medicine at the University of Sydney, had the track in Randwick as a regular haunt, and he often talked with riders and trainers. He had learned some Zhuang from his father, who migrated to Australia from southern China in the 19th century. He was the one who suggested "farlap" as the horse's name. Telford liked the name, but changed the F to a PH to create a seven letter word, and split it into two words, so as to replicate the dominant pattern set by Melbourne Cup winners.

Off to a slow start

Sydney trainer Harry Telford persuaded American-born sportsman David J. Davis to buy the colt at auction, based on his pedigree. Telford's brother Hugh, who lived in New Zealand, was asked to bid up to 190 guineas. When the horse was obtained for a mere 160 guineas, he thought the he was a great bargain - until the colt arrived in Australia. The horse was gangly, his face was covered with warts, and he had an awkward gait. Davis was furious when he saw the colt as well, and refused to pay to train the horse. Telford had not been particularly successful as a trainer, and Davis was one of his few remaining owners. To placate Davis, he agreed to train the horse for nothing, in exchange for a 2/3 share of the winnings - if any.

Although syndicating a winning racehorse can be quite lucrative, Telford gelded Phar Lap anyway, hoping that the colt would concentrate on racing.

Phar Lap came last in the first race he entered, and he did not place in his next three races. He won his first race on April 27, 1929, the Maiden Juvenile Handicap at Rosehill, ridden by Jack Baker of Armidale, a 17-year-old apprentice. [Cite web |url= |title=Jack Baker rode himself into Australian racing history |author=Phil Purser | accessdate = 2007-07-30 ] The word "maiden" indicates that none of the horses in the race had won. They spelled the horse for several months, then entered him in a series of races in which he moved up in class. The horse took second in the Chelmsford Stakes at Randwick on September 14, 1929, and the racing community started treating the horse with respect.

Racing life

In the four years of his racing career, Phar Lap won 37 of 51 races he entered, including the Melbourne Cup in 1930 with 9st 12lb (61.5kg). In that year and 1931, he won 14 races in a row. From his win as a three-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 that he did not win, he ran second on two occasions, beaten by a short head and a neck, and in the 1931 Melbourne Cup he finished eighth when carrying 10 st 10 lb (68 kg).

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 Agua Caliente 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.


Early on April 5, 1932, the horse's strapper for the North American visit, Tommy Woodcock, found him in severe pain and carrying a high temperature. Within a few hours, Phar Lap hemorrhaged to death. Much speculation ensued, and when a necropsy revealed that the horse's stomach and intestines were inflamed, many believed the horse had been deliberately poisoned. There have been alternative theories, including accidental poisoning from lead insecticide and a stomach condition. It was not until the 1980s that the infection could be formally identified.

In 2000, equine specialists studying the two necropsies concluded Fact|date=September 2008 that Phar Lap probably died of duodenitis-proximal jejunitis, an acute bacterial gastroenteritis.

However, in 2006 Australian Synchrotron Research scientists said it was almost certain Phar Lap was poisoned with a large single dose of arsenic in the hours before he died, perhaps supporting the theory that Phar Lap was killed on the orders of U.S. gangsters, who feared the Melbourne-Cup-winning champion would inflict big losses on their illegal bookmakers. [Cite news |url= |title=Phar Lap poisoned, scientists say |publisher=ABC News Online |date=2006-10-23 ] No real evidence of involvement by a criminal element exists, however. [Cite news |url= |title=Catalyst (2008 report on arsenic death of Phar Lap) |publisher=ABC News Online |date=2008-06-19 ]

Sydney veterinarian Dr Percy Sykes believes poisoning did not cause the death. He said "In those days, arsenic was quite a common tonic, usually given in the form of a solution (Fowler's Solution)," and suggests this was the cause of the high levels. "It was so common that I'd reckon 90 per cent of the horses had arsenic in their system." [Cite news |url= |title=Phar Lap arsenic claims premature: expert |publisher=ABC News Online |date=2006-10-23 ] In December 2007 Phar Lap's mane was tested to find if he was given repeated doses of arsenic which, if found, would point to accidental poisoning.

On June 19, 2008, the Melbourne Museum released the findings of the forensic investigation conducted by Dr. Ivan Kempson, University of South Australia, and Dermot Henry, Natural Science Collections at Museum Victoria. Dr. Kempson took six hairs from Phar Lap’s mane and analyzed them at the Advanced Photon Source in Chicago. These high resolution x-rays detect arsenic in hair samples, showing the specific difference "between arsenic which had entered the hair cells via the blood and arsenic which had infused the hair cells by the taxidermy process when he was stuffed and mounted at the museum". [ [ Sydney Morning Herald: It's official, Phar Lap was poisoned] ]

Kempson and Henry discovered that in the 30 to 40 hours before Phar Lap’s death, the horse ingested a massive dose of arsenic. "We can't speculate where the arsenic came from, but it was easily accessible at the time," Henry said. [ [ Yahoo! Sports: Phar Lap died of arsenic poisoning] ]

Phar Lap never had the opportunity to confront the great Equipoise, called "Chocolate Soldier" by his fans, and the dominant American thoroughbred racehorse of the day (horse of the year in 1932 and 1933 and an exceptional performer in his own right).

Following his death, Phar Lap's heart was donated to the Institute of Anatomy in Canberra and his skeleton to the New Zealand's 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.

Phar Lap's heart was remarkable for its size, weighing 6.2 kg, compared with a normal horse's heart at 3.2 kg. (In 1989 the famous Secretariat's heart was examined at a necropsy performed at his death. The veterinarian recorded the heart weight at an astonishing 9.6 kg — 21 pounds officially, though it was estimated at 21 to 22 pounds). Phar Lap's heart is now held at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. It is consistently the object visitors request to see most often.

When news of Phar Lap's death reached Australia thousands grieved. Many sporting champions paid tribute to the horse, including Australia's leading cyclist, Hubert Opperman. He 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 gallop 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."

Cultural impact

Several books and films have been written about the horse, including the 1983 movie "Phar Lap" or "Phar L

Phar Lap was one of five inaugural inductees into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame, alongside other turf notables Carbine, Tulloch, Bernborough, and Kingston Town. In the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th century, Phar Lap was ranked no. 22.

A life-sized bronze memorial to Phar Lap is to be created in South Canterbury in New Zealand, where Phar Lap was born. [Cite web |url= |title=Life-sized Phar Lap bronze to be created in Timaru |publisher=Horsetalk |date=2006-08-03 ]

Racing record

1928-29 season as a two year old

1931-32 season as a five year old

TOTAL: 51 starts - 37 wins, 3 seconds, 2 thirds, 9 unplaced


name = Phar Lap
f = Night Raid (GB)
b. 1918
m = Entreaty (NZ)
blk. 1920
ff = Radium (GB)
b. 1903
fm = Sentiment (GB)
b. 1912
mf = Winkie (GB)
ch. 1912
mm = Prayer Wheel (NZ)
b. 1905
fff = Bend Or
ffm = Taia
fmf = Spearmint
fmm = Flair
mff = William the Third
mfm = Conjure
mmf = Pilgrim's Progress
mmm = Catherine Wheel
ffff = Doncaster
fffm = Rouge Rose
ffmf = Donovan
ffmm = Eira
fmff = Carbine
fmfm = Maid of the Mint
fmmf = St.Frusquin
fmmm = Glare
mfff = St.Simon
mffm = Gravity
mfmf = Juggler
mfmm = Connie
mmff = Isonomy
mmfm = Pilgrimage
mmmf = Maxim
mmmm = Miss Kate (F-No.2-r)

ee also

* Repeat winners of horse races


External links

* [ Download the video - Forensic Science proves the cause of Phar Lap's death, June 2008]
* [ Science finds new angle to Phar Lap mystery - Horsetalk, October 2006]
* [ Phar Lap at Museum Victoria, Melbourne Australia]
* [ Phar Lap at Te Papa, New Zealand]
* [ Phar Lap's heart at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra]
* [ "Phar Lap"] at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
* [ Australian Racing Museum and Hall of Fame]
* [ Phar Lap Australia's Wonder Horse]
* [ Book Review of 'Phar Lap' by Geoff Armstrong and Peter Thompson]
* [ Digital Photo Collection on Phar Lap]
* [ Life-sized Phar Lap bronze to be created in Timaru]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Phar Lap — at Flemington Racecourse c. 1930 Rasse: Englisches Vollblut Vater: Night Raid …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Phar Lap — remportant la Melbourne Cup Phar Lap est l un des plus célèbres chevaux de courses australiens. En quatre ans de carrière, il a remporté trente sept des cinquante et une compétitions auxquelles il a participé. Il est aussi surnommé : Wonder… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Phar Lap — Эту статью следует викифицировать. Пожалуйста, оформите её согласно правилам оформления статей …   Википедия

  • Phar Lap — I. /ˈfa læp/ (say fah lap) noun an Australian racehorse, born in NZ; won the Melbourne Cup in 1930 in spite of heavy handicap. Although initially unsuccessful, the chestnut gelding Phar Lap repaid the faith of his strapper, Tommy Woodcock, by… …   Australian English dictionary

  • Phar Lap (film) — Infobox Film name = Phar Lap image size = 200px caption = Promotional poster from the 1983 film director = Simon Wincer producer = John Sexton writer = David Williamson narrator = starring = Tom Burlinson Martin Vaughan Ron Leibman music =… …   Wikipedia

  • Phar Lap (company) — Infobox Company company name = Phar Lap Inc. foundation = April 1986 location = Cambridge, Mass. key people = Richard M. Smith, Robert Moote, and John M. Benfatto industry = Computer software products = development tools for MS DOS/PC DOS, DOS… …   Wikipedia

  • Phar Lap (company) — …   Википедия

  • Game as Phar Lap — with fighting spirit; plucky; resolute …   Dictionary of Australian slang

  • game as phar lap — Australian Slang with fighting spirit; plucky; resolute …   English dialects glossary

  • Cox Plate — Group One race W.S. Cox Plate Rogilla and Da …   Wikipedia

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