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.
He was the long shot...heard 'round the world.
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Did You Know?
Tommy Woodcock went on to become a horse trainer. One of his greatest success was Reckless, a horse which won the Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane Cups and finished second in the Melbourne Cup in 1977. Tommy was respected for his training methods and his great love for horses. Tommy and his wife, Emma, had no children but their home was always open to the apprentices that Tommy trained. Tommy Woodcock trained horses until he was 78. He donated several of his personal mementoes of Phar Lap to the Museum of Victoria to go with the Museum's exhibit of Phar Lap's hide. 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
[seeing Phar Lap when he first arrives in Australia as a young colt
This is not a horse, Harry. This is a cross between a sheepdog and a kangaroo.
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 The Cup
Follow the Swallow
Music by Ray Henderson
Lyrics by Mort Dixon
and Billy Rose See more