Phar Lap Racehorse
Not only was Phar Lap a champion New Zealand and Australian thoroughbred, but he was undoubtedly the most important thoroughbred of this lifetime.
He pulled countless wins during the Great Depression, at a time when people needed a distraction from the turmoil of everyday life. Phar Lap was their saviour and he paved the way for so many staying thoroughbreds in Australasia.
Phar Lap’s Record
It was a poor start to Phar Lap’s career, which included a last-place finish on debut, followed by three unplaced runs. He broke maiden grades on April 27 1929, and the rest is history.
The son of Night Raid ended his career with 37 wins from 51 starts. He was the third-highest prize money winner at his time of retirement and his record included many incredible wins.
His most notable wins came in the 1930 Melbourne Cup and the Agua Caliente Handicap. Phar Lap’s first and only Melbourne Cup win was celebrated around the world and punters were happy. He won at odds of 8/11, so the bookmakers weren’t too happy.
In 1930 and 1931, he won 14 consecutive races, which started in the St Leger and ended with his final race in Mexico. His win in the Agua Caliente Handicap was a momentous occasion for new owner David J Davis, who had purchased Phar Lap to race in North America.
The Agua Handicap carried the biggest purse ever seen in North America and he won in a track-record time. It was to be his final race and his it brought a close to an incredible racing career.
Some of his notable early Australian wins came in the Rosehill Guineas, AJC Derby and Victoria Derby. He was twice a Cox Plate winner and he also scored wins in the Memsie Stakes, Futurity Stakes and Underwood Stakes.
Phar Lap Shootings and death
Phar Lap had such an impact on not only the racing community, but also the underbelly of the criminal world.
There were attempts to shoot Phar Lap in 1930, but only days later, he was winning the Melbourne Cup. It forced his team to have 24/7 security when he raced but he managed to escape scot free.
However, Phar Lap was to pass away on 5 April 1932 at the age of 5, after the strapper found him in severe pain. Many believed he had been intentionally poisoned, but it hasn’t been proven.
Some vets believe if it was arsenic, it wouldn’t have killed Phar Lap. There have also been claims that Phar Lap ingested massive loads of arsenic, which could have been accidental.
There have been theories that Phar Lap was given a ‘tonic’ which included arsenic. It was a performance enhancer, but no theories can be accurately tested and proven.
Phar Lap’s heart was measured at 6.2kg, which is almost double the weight of an average horse’s heart. Many critics believe the heart currently on display at the National Museum of Australia is fake, but he certainly had heart during his career.
The team behind Phar Lap
Phar Lap was born in Timaru, New Zealand. He was sold at the Trentham Yearling Sales for only 160 guineas, despite having great breeding lines.
He then went to Australia and was trained by Harry Telford, who ultimately decided to geld Phar Lap, instead of having a potential stud career.
American businessman David Davis and Telford would eventually share in the ownership, but it wasn’t quite the rags to riches story he’s synonymous with.
Phar Lap’s Achievements and statistics
Phar Lap ended his brief career with an incredible 37 wins from 51 starts, which is a heavy load for just a five-year-old.
He won $66,738, which in the 1930’s was a very healthy sum. He’s rated as the 22nd top US racehorse of all time, despite having only one run in North America.
He was inducted into both the New Zealand and Australia Racing Hall of Fame.
Phar Lap Statistics
Race record: 37 wins from 51 starts
Career earnings: $66,738
Group 1 wins: 12
Breeding: Night Raid x. Entreaty
Trainer: Harry Telford
Jockey: Jim Pike
Sold for: 160,000 guineas
Years active: 1929-1932