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The News - 4 November 1930
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Phar Lap wins Melbourne Cup easily from Second Wind and Shadow King

The News - 4 November 1930

Adelaide; News Limited

Newspaper, 590 x 420 mm

Location : State Library of South Australia - view catalogue entry

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Phar Lap won the 1930 Melbourne Cup with an extraordinary handicap of 62.5 kilograms, over 4 kilograms more than any other four-year-old horse had carried in a Cup. He is the only horse in Australian history to have been favourite for the Melbourne Cup three years in a row.

Phar Lap is Australia’s best-known and most loved racehorse. He was born in New Zealand in 1926 and brought to Australia by owner American David J. Davis who purchased him for the small sum of 160 guineas ($336.00). Phar Lap’s career began in 1929 at the beginning of the Great Depression. His huge popularity was partly a product of these times – he was seen as a champion from humble beginnings that rose up on his own merits. He was also popular as a sure bet to win some much needed cash.

Over his short career Phar Lap won 37 of his 51 races and placed in five others. He won four races, including the Melbourne Cup, in one week in the spring of 1930. At the time of his Melbourne Cup win Phar Lap had just survived a shooting. The gunman was never identified, but many believe bookmakers to have been behind the plot, as some resented having to pay out every time the seemingly unbeatable horse won. In 1932 Phar Lap was shipped to Mexico to race in the Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico. After winning that race in record time for the track he was taken to California. He died there in mysterious circumstances. Many believed that he had been poisoned, but it is now thought that he died of a bacterial infection that is often found in horses that have travelled long distances. This infection was not known at the time of Phar Lap’s death, so contemporary autopsies would not have found it.

Further reading

  • Armstrong, Geoff and Peter Thompson. Phar Lap, St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen and Unwin, 2000.
  • Barnard, Jill. Phar Lap: a brief history, Melbourne: Published for the Museum of Victoria by Printing and Publishing Services Victoria (PPSV), 1991.
  • Wilkinson, Michael. The Phar Lap story, Sydney: Budget Books, 1983

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