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Phar Lap

Phar Lap was a thoroughbred horse who is considered to be one of the world's greatest racehorses. He is sometimes called "Australia's wonder horse".

Phar Lap was born in Timaru, New Zealand in 1926. He was purchased for just over $300 and brought to Australia by the new owner, American-born sportsman, David J. Davis. In his four years of racing, Phar Lap won 37 of the 51 races in which he was entered, including the prestigious Melbourne Cup. Between 1930 and 1931, he won fourteen races in a row. In 1930, someone (alleged to have been a bookmaker losing vast amounts of money) tried to shoot the horse.

For his final race, Phar Lap's owner shipped him by boat to a racetrack near Tijuana, Mexico to compete in the Agua Caliente Handicap, which he won in a track-record time. From there, the horse was sent to a private ranch near Menlo Park, California while his owner negotiated with racetrack officials for special race appearances.

Early on April 5, 1932, the horse's trainer found him in severe pain, carrying a high temperature. Within a few hours, Phar Lap hemorrhaged to death. Much speculation ensued, and when an autopsy revealed that the horse's stomach and intestines were inflamed, many believed the horse had been deliberately poisoned. There have been alternate theories, including accidental poisoning from lead insecticide and a stomach condition.

So fond of the horse were the people of Australia and New Zealand that following his death, his heart was donated to the Institute of Anatomy in Canberra and his skeleton to the New Zealand National Museum in Wellington. After preparations of the hide by a New York City taxidermist, his stuffed body was placed in the Australia Gallery at Melbourne Museum.

Several books and films have been written about the horse, including the 1938 movie, Phar Lap or Phar Lap: Heart of a Nation. A song, "Phar Lap—Farewell To You", was also written.

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