About Phar Lap
The "Red Terror", the big chestnut gelding called Phar Lap, is truly a legend in Australian horseracing history. Today more than half a century after his death, his mounted hide – a masterpiece of the taxidermist’s art – still attracts an endless stream of admirers to the National Museum in Melbourne.
Phar Lap’s fame rests partly on his magnificent record against the finest horses in Australia and finally America between 1929 and 1932. There was the 1930 Melbourne Cup, which he won with the heavy weight of 9 stone 12 pounds. There were two W. S. Cox Plates, Derbies in Sydney and Melbourne, the King’s Cup in Adelaide, and a brace of weight-for-age races.
His fame rests partly on his versatility. He won races as short as 6 furlongs (approx. 1200m) and as long as 2.25 miles (3600m). In the unforgettable Melbourne Cup carnival of 1930, he won races in each of the 4 race days, in the space of just 1 week. He set time records at Randwick, Flemington and Aqua Caliente. He carried weight of more than 10 stone to victory and only the crushing burden of 10 stone 10 pounds could defeat him in his bid for the 1931 Melbourne Cup.
His fame rests partly too on the romance of his story. Fouled in New Zealand by the then unfashionable Night Raid (imported from England) from the failed race mare Entreaty, Phar Lap fetched a meagre 160 guineas in the sale ring. Against the wisdom of everyone else, the man who bought him – Randwick trainer Harry Telford – admired the horse and his distant pedigree which traced to the other Australian turf hero, Carbine. Telford bought
the horse for investor David Davis, but Davis was so unimpressed with the purchase that Telford raced the horse himself under a lease until the end of 1930. In the meantime, he and the horse completed a rags-to-riches saga by annexing all the great races in the land.
Above all his fame rests on his personality. The Australian sporting public soon came to love the horse. His triumphs came in the worst years of the Great Depression, and Phar Lap brought a message of hope, spirit and courage to the people. His partnership with jockey Jim Pike and above all with his strapper Tommy Woodcock, became part of the legend.
Finally in 1932 Phar Lap was sent to the USA to compete in Aqua Caliente, just across the border in Mexico. The Handicap was promoted as the richest in the world, and attracted a top class field. Making light of his weight, Phar Lap won by 2 lengths and smashed the course record.
Fifteen days later he was dead. The true cause will never be known. He took ill after grazing on unfamiliar feed, so some believe he was poisoned; but there has never been any evidence for this belief. Australia was heartbroken at the news, but in the end it has been the life and inspiration of Phar Lap’s story that has lived on.
Phar lap recorded 37 wins, 3 seconds and 2 thirds from a total of 51 starts – yet he was unplaced at his first 4 runs. Then on 21 September 1929 his fine sequence began. He was unplaced only once thereafter at his 2nd last start, when he carried 10 stone 10 pounds in the 1931 Melbourne Cup. His placings included a third in the 1929 Melbourne Cup.
Fouled 4 October 1926 at Seadown Stud, Timara, NZ
Died 5 April 1932 at Merlo Park, California USA
Phar Lap Racing Tours
Tours to the Sport of Kings