Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Phar Lap was also the name of a computer software company
Phar Lap was foaled in Timaru, New Zealand in 1926. The name Phar Lap derives from the shared Zhuang and Thai word for lightning. He was purchased for just over $300 and taken to Australia by the new owner, American-born sportsman, David J. Davis. In his four years of racing, Phar Lap won 37 of the 51 races in which he was entered, including the prestigious Melbourne Cup in 1930. In that year and 1931, he won 14 races in a row. 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 a 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 trainer found him in severe pain, carrying a high temperature. Within a few hours, Phar Lap hemorrhaged to death. Much speculation ensued, and when an autopsy revealed that the horse's stomach and intestines were inflamed, many believed the horse had been deliberately poisoned. There have been alternate theories, including accidental poisoning from lead insecticide and a stomach condition. At any rate, he never had the opportunity to confront Equipoise, the dominant American thoroughbred racehorse of the day and an exceptional performer in his own right.
So fond of the horse were the people of Australia and New Zealand that following his death, his heart was donated to the Institute of Anatomy in Canberra and his skeleton to the New Zealand 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.
Several books and films have been written about the horse, including the 1983 movie, Phar Lap or Phar Lap: Heart of a Nation. A song, "Phar Lap—Farewell To You", was also written.
In the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, Phar Lap was ranked #22.
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