Phar Lap, the legendary Australian racing horse, is as well-known today for his mysterious death as for his fabulous accomplishments in life. Beginning at the end, the film flashes back to the day that Phar Lap, despite his lack of pedigree, is purchased on impulse by trainer Harry Telford. Phar Lap loses his first races, but Telford's faith in the animal is unshakable. Suddenly the horse becomes a winner, thanks to the love and diligence of stableboy Tommy Woodcock. American-promoter Dave Davis arranges for Phar Lap to be entered in several top races, where his "long shot" status results in heavy losses for the professional gamblers. Just after winning an important race in Mexico, Phar Lap collapses and dies; though the film never comes out and says as much, it is assumed that the horse was "murdered" by the gambling interests.
13 April 1984 (USA)
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Also Known As:
A Horse Called Phar Lap
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Gross USA: $2,878,404
Cumulative Worldwide Gross: $2,878,404
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Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?
After Phar Lap's death, his stuffed hide was donated to the Melbourne Museum (where it is one of the main attractions), his skeleton to Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and his heart to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. His heart was remarkable for its size, weighing 6.2 kg, compared with an average horse's heart weight of 3.2 kg. See more
Early in the film, in early 1928, Phar Lap's trainer Harry Telford (Martin Vaughan) insists that the horse's name must contain seven letters, because the names of the last four Melbourne Cup winners had contained seven letters. In fact, only one of the previous four Melbourne Cup winners in the period in question, 1924-27, had seven letters in its name - Windbag, in 1925. The other winners in that period were Backwood (1924), Spearfelt (1926) and Trivalve (1927). Nor did the subsequent 1928 winner, Statesman, nor the 1929 winner, Nightmarch (to whom Phar Lap ran third), have seven letters in their names. See more
[talking to the horse, while feeding him
Yeah, you know what's coming up, don't ya? Hang on a minute. Hang on, I've gotta mix it up. That's it. Yeah. You're a good fellow today. You love all that stuff now, don't ya? Crowds and cheering. The bigger the better, eh?
The original release opens with Phar Lap's death, with the rest of the film told in flashback. For it's American release where the story of Phar Lap is less known, the opening was removed, making Phar Lap's unexpected death more dramatic. See more
Referenced in Emerald City
Along the Road to Gundagai
Written by Jack O'Hagan See more