Got My Horse

The Iconic Story of Phar Lap: His Rise to Fame and Mysterious Death

Phar Lap: The Rise and Fall of a Racing Legend

Phar Lap, an icon of Australian racing, is a name that is still familiar to many to this day. His remarkable story of success and tragedy is one that captivates the hearts of racing enthusiasts and casual observers alike.

Let’s take a look at Phar Lap’s background, rise to fame, physical characteristics, ownership, breeding, race record, and tragic death.

Birthplace and Ownership

Phar Lap was born in Seadown Stud, Timaru, New Zealand, in 1926. His breeder, Alick Roberts, sold him to the Australian racing novice David Davis, who, with his partner Harry Telford, became the horse’s trainer and part-owner.

Early Racing Career and Success

Phar Lap’s racing career began in 1929 when he was two years old. Initially, he was a mediocre horse who didn’t show much potential.

But with patient and dedicated training from Telford, he became one of the best racehorses in Australian history. Phar Lap’s first big win came in 1930 at the Victoria Derby.

His amazing performance caught the attention of the public, earning him a spot in the Melbourne Cup that same year. Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup with an impressive time, and that was just the beginning.

In the next three years, he embarked on a winning spree, earning 37 victories out of 51 starts. He became a symbol of success in a time when the Great Depression had hit the country hard.

Phar Lap’s Stats

Physical Characteristics

Phar Lap was a chestnut-colored, Thoroughbred gelding, 17 hands tall, with a large heart, which made him an excellent runner. He was also quite muscular, with powerful, long strides.

Ownership and Trainer

Phar Lap was owned by David Davis and Harry Telford. Telford was responsible for training the horse, and he spent countless hours working with him to achieve his full potential.

Breeding and Earnings

Phar Lap’s sire, Night Raid, was a successful stallion, and his dam, Entreaty, was a quality mare. Phar Lap’s breeding, combined with Telford’s training, made him a force to be reckoned with on the racetrack.

Phar Lap earned his owners a staggering 66,738 Australian pounds throughout his career, making him one of the most profitable horses in Australian racing history.

Race Record

Phar Lap’s race record is impressive, to say the least. Hailing from humble beginnings, Phar Lap defied the odds to become one of the most successful horses in Australian history.

He ran a total of 51 races and won an astounding 37 of them. Phar Lap captured the hearts of the public, and his winning streak inspired confidence in a time of great economic hardship.

Tragic Death

On April 4th, 1932, Phar Lap suffered a sudden and inexplicable end. He was at Agua Caliente Handicap race track in Atherton, California, preparing for his next race when he suddenly fell ill.

Despite the best efforts of his trainers and grooms, Phar Lap passed away within hours. Phar Lap’s death remains a mystery to this day, but theories include poisoning, a mysterious illness, or even a bizarre hit by organized crime.

The event sent shockwaves through the racing community, and Phar Lap entered the halls of legend.


In conclusion, Phar Lap’s story is one of remarkable success and tragedy. His ascension from mediocre horse to Australian icon remains a source of inspiration and fascination to this day.

Phar Lap’s impressive race record, physical prowess, and enduring legacy make him one of the greats of Australian racing history. 3) 10 Things You Didn’t Know about Phar Lap

Phar Lap, the legendary Thoroughbred racehorse, remains one of the most iconic figures in Australian history.

His story is shrouded in mystery, and his success on the racetrack remains unmatched to this day. Despite his status as a cultural icon, there are still some things about Phar Lap that many people do not know.

Here are ten surprising facts about Phar Lap. 1.

Purchase and Name

David Davis bought Phar Lap for a mere 160 guineas at an auction in 1928. The horse was originally named “farlap,” a misprint in his registration papers that remained in use.

2. Height and Heart

Phar Lap was a giant among horses, standing at 17.1 hands tall (68.4 inches).

In addition to his impressive size, Phar Lap also had an abnormally large heart, which enabled him to run faster and longer than most other horses. 3.

Melbourne Cup Record

Phar Lap won the prestigious Melbourne Cup race twice, in 1930 and 1931. In his first win, he entered the race as the shortest odds winner at 8-11.

4. No Offspring and Tom Woodcock

Phar Lap was a gelding, which means that he had been castrated and was unable to sire offspring.

Despite this, he maintained a close relationship with his handler, Tom Woodcock, who became an integral part of Phal Lap’s success. 5.

Movie based on Phar Lap

In 1983, the movie Phar Lap was released, detailing the story of the horse’s life and death. The movie, directed by Simon Wincer, starred Tom Burlinson as Woodcock and featured a musical score composed by Bruce Rowland.

The film’s title song, “The Man from Snowy River,” became an instant classic. 6.

Mystery Surrounding Death

Phar Lap’s sudden death on April 4th, 1932, remains a mystery to this day. He died from an inflamed stomach and intestines, but the exact cause of his illness is uncertain.

Many theories have been proposed, including arsenic poisoning and the effects of getting struck by a stray bullet. 7.

Taxidermied Remains

Phar Lap’s body was preserved and put on display at the Melbourne Museum. He remains one of the most popular exhibits, attracting visitors from all over the world.

8. Comparison to Secretariat

Phar Lap is often compared to Secretariat, a famous American racehorse with whom he shares many similarities.

Like Phar Lap, Secretariat had an abnormally large heart and was known to be lightning-fast on the track. Secretariat became famous for his “Triple Crown” victory in 1973, while Phar Lap remains a beloved icon of Australian racing history.

9. Jockeys and Siblings

Jim Pike was Phar Lap’s regular jockey, and the two had a close bond both on and off the track.

Although Phar Lap had no full siblings, he was related to several other successful racehorses, including the Melbourne Cup winner Nightmarch. 10.

Global Attention

Phar Lap’s fame extended far beyond Australia, and he remains a beloved figure in many other countries, including New Zealand, England, and the United States. His impressive record and enigmatic personality continue to captivate audiences around the world.

In conclusion, Phar Lap was an extraordinary horse who achieved remarkable success on the racetrack. His physical characteristics, racing record, cinematic legacy, and mysterious death continue to fascinate racing enthusiasts and casual observers alike.

Phar Lap’s impact on the world of Thoroughbred racing and Australian culture will be felt for generations to come. Phar Lap, the iconic and enigmatic Thoroughbred racehorse, remains a beloved figure in Australian history.

His story is full of interesting facts and surprising twists, from his initial purchase for 160 guineas to his abnormally large heart and mysterious death. Phar Lap’s impact on the world of Thoroughbred racing and popular culture is undeniable, and his legacy continues to fascinate audiences worldwide.

Some common questions and concerns regarding Phar Lap include his cause of death, his relationship with Tom Woodcock, and his comparison to other famous racehorses.

Popular Posts