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.Written by
Billy Eliot, Phar Lap's jockey at Agua Caliente had been devastated by Phar Lap's mysterious death, gave his saddle to George Woolf as a gesture of friendship. Woolf went on to become one of America's greatest riders, using the saddle on his favourite mount, Seabiscuit (2003), who, like Phar Lap, captivated a nation in the midst of the depression. The saddle was Woolf's lucky charm. From that date on until the time of his death he used it. Coincidentally, the only time he did not use it, from the time when Elliot gifted it to Woolf, was in his last race which he, unfortunately, was killed in. 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 »
Why is it, do you think, that there's been this incredible reaction to Phar Lap's death? After all, he was just a horse.
He wasn't *just* a horse. He was the best.
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The original release opens with Phar Lap's death, with the rest of the film told in flashback. For its 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 »
*****SPOILERS***** True story about the New Zealand wounder horse that nobody wanted at first and that almost no horse could beat in the end.
Phar Lap ran up a string of victories from Australia to the United States that astounded the racing world then and even now it's hard to believe that such a race horse ever existed, he was just that good. like the saying goes: "It too good to be true" but it is. Winning 37 out of 51 races in his racing career with 14 wins in a row between 1930-1931 the only thing that could beat Phar Lap was the crushing weight that local handicappers put on his back to give the other horses racing against him a chance.
In Phar Lap's last race in 1932 he traveled to the United States to race against the best racehorses in the world at the Agua Caliente race track on the Mexican border. It was there for the first time in his life Par Lap raced on dirt not grass where he ran on in all his races and not only won but broke the track and world record for a mile and a quarter doing it. Tragically a month later Phar Lap collapsed and died in his stable.
Moving as well as exciting film about the great Phar Lap with Tom Burlinson excellent as Tommy Woodcock, the young stable boy who was the only one who had any faith in the horses ability and brought the best out of Phar Lap when everyone else gave up on him. With top performances from Ron Leibman and Martin Vaughan as Phar Lap's owner and trainer who over the years with him began to see Phar Lap not as a racehorse but almost human.
One of the most stirring finals you'll ever see in any movie with Phar Lap beating the best there is in the world of horse racing in the Mexican desert at the Agua Caliente race track racing with an injured hoof and carrying a high weight of 129 pounds. Later after the race when Phar lap breaks down and dies the shock and heart felt loss, especially by young Tommy Woodcock, was one of the most touching and moving scenes I've ever seen in any film. You can really see what that horse meant to everyone who had the privilege to be involved with him. Great movie, but what makes it even greater is that the story is unbelievably true.
P.S One more thing about the movie, the part of Phar Lap was played by a horse named Towering Inferno.
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