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Monday, April 05, 2010

Reuniting Racing Legend Phar Lap, Piece by Piece, Is Melbourne Cup's Goal

5 April 2010 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

April 5th is a black day in the history of horse racing. It's the day always remembered, and certainly not celebrated, as the day that the Australian racing legend Phar Lap died mysteriously while resting between races at a horse farm near San Francisco in 1932.

You've probably seen the movie (a few favorite scenes are in the clip below); many people feel that it is the best horse-racing film ever made, and I'd agree. If you haven't seen it, you're really missing something!

The circumstances surrounding Phar Lap's death will always be shrouded in mystery, no matter how many forensic tests are made and new theories are put forth. This horse's life and death were the stuff of fiction...and yet they really happened.

Likewise, Phar Lap's world-famous quarter crack and his equally-famous bar shoes are the stuff of hoofcare legend.

What many Americans don't know is what happened to Phar Lap after he died. He was sent to a taxidermist in New York, where his skeleton was assembled, his heart removed, and his hide preserved.

The famous Jonas Brothers taxidermists of the American Museum of Natural History in New York worked on Phar Lap's model for four and a half months.

The finished model of Phar Lap--that's his actual hide--is on display at the National Museum of Victoria. Click here to read more about the model.
Phar Lap's heart is on display at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. His enormous heart weighed 6.2 kg, or about 13.5 pounds! It is displayed in comparison to a normal-sized equine heart, which weighs about nine pounds. Read about Phar Lap's heart at the Museum's web site.
Phar Lap's actual skeleton went home to New Zealand, where he'd been born.
Phar Lap has been dead for 78 years, but he's still making news, according to Radio New Zealand. This year will be the 150th anniversary of the Melbourne Cup, and the Victorian Racing Minister has asked New Zealand to consider loaning the skeleton to Australia, in the hopes of reuniting all the known pieces of the magnificent horse.

Click here to watch a television news report showing all the pieces of Phar Lap following today's request.

This story still doesn't end. Phar Lap will always be in the news, in one way or another. My colleague, journalist Robin Marshall of New Zealand, has made a serious study of Phar Lap's skeleton and has been seriously campaigning for support that the skeleton was incorrectly assembled and does not do him justice. Phar Lap was 17.1 hands and Robin's analysis charges that the skeleton on display is not worthy of such a large horse. She says, "It might as well be a 15hh brumby!"

Click here to read more about Robin's heartfelt campaign to restore Phar Lap's skeleton to his proper stature.  And stay tuned for more news about Phar Lap...the horse whose legend is very much alive. Everyone still wants a piece of him: now, that's a hero!

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Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page).

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Anonymous said...

This is excellent! I'm a huge Phar Lap fan and always enjoy reading more about him. His vital organs actually went on "tour" after he died.

He truly was one of the greatest that ever lived. I remember reading that he put together a streak of 14 consecutive victories, and twice won 9 consecutive races!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this!

QQ said...

I knew parts of this, but it's wonderful the way you've put them all together like some talented taxidermist of words and history! Thanks!