Phar Lap on Display

In celebration of the 150th Melbourne Cup Carnival, Australia will be welcoming back a horse that made history throughout the world and now stands in the halls of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The legendary Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup in the year 1930, exactly eighty years ago, and the museum has granted the Melbourne Museum permission to display this magnificent horse’s skeleton for the duration of the festival. Having this great race horse return to Australia has flooded the horse racing industry with memories of an era when Phar Lap ruled the racecourses.

Looking at Phar Lap’s skeleton it is easy to see why he was considered to be a dominating figure. Standing at 17.1 hands in height, he towered over his opponents and also had the speed, endurance and the heart to back up his massive features. Often referred to as Big Red, Wonder Horse and the Red Terror, Phar Lap was born in 1926 and was a ray of hope in the terrifying grips of the Great Depression. The public adored Phar Lap, supporting him in great numbers at every race and holding onto his victories as if they were their own. His untimely death in 1932, which was due to suspected accidental arsenic poisoning, was deeply mourned. At the time of his passing Phar Lap was one of the top three earning race horses on the planet, with victories such as the Melbourne Stakes (1930 & 1931), Melbourne Cup, Victoria Derby, Cox Plate and Futurity Stakes to his name. Phar Lap won a staggering 33 races off 35 career starts, catapulting him to iconic status in the horse racing history of both New Zealand and Australia. Due to Phar Lap being bred in New Zealand and trained in Australia, both countries wanted to lay claim to this magnificent race horse. His skeleton is therefore in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, his heart is displayed in the National Museum of Australia and his hide is mounted in the Melbourne Museum.

The generosity of the Te Papa Museum has enabled Australian horse racing enthusiasts the opportunity to view the skeleton of this wonderful horse, and educate the public on a horse and an era of horse racing that has not been forgotten. Bringing a champion such as Phar Lap back to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Melbourne Cup Carnival is an honor for all those who visit the museum.

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