Two days later Phar Lap easily won the Linlithgow Stakes by four lengths from Mollison with Mystic Peak third then returned to Flemington two days later for the CB Fisher Plate.  Second Wind and Lineage the only other starters wouldn't challenge Phar Lap and he led at half pace eventually going to the line in front of Second Wind by 3 lengths with a further 4 lengths to Lineage.   The run took so little out of Phar Lap that Tom Woodcock had problems holding him during morning exercise the next day.  The CB Fisher Plate was the last race under the lease and I the autumn he was due to revert back to the full ownership of David Davis.   In early February 1931 David Davis accepted a payment of 400 pounds from Telford for a half share in the horse.

Phar Lap returned to racing in 1931 in the St George Stakes on February 14. Only 3 other rivals lined up. The 1-14 favourite was never in doubt winning by 2 lengths from Induna with a further 2 lengths to Glare third. Next he was dropped back to the 7 furlongs journey and allotted 65kg in the weight for age plus penalties Futurity Stakes at Caulfield. The field of 10 also included Mollison, Waterline, Mystic Peak (carrying 64.5kg), Wise Force and Greenline. It was the shortest distance Phar Lap have raced over since his 2yo days and it was thought he could be vulnerable. Phar Lap missed the start as Mollison went to the lead but was soon joined and passed by Taurus as Phar Lap tailed the field more than 30 lengths away. Pulled out wide from the 1000m Phar Lap started to make ground but around the home turn a wall of horses (Greenline, Wise Force, Mollison and Mystic Peak) blocked his way. Checked and swinging out wider he took a while to regain momentum as Mystic Peak raced well clear of Taurus. Phar Lap started to gain on Mystic Peak but Taurus drifted out into his running. Checked again Phar Lap changed course and then continued to chase hard. Inside the final 100m Mystic Peak led but Phar Lap was flying home and on the post the chestnut was a neck in front from Mystic Peak with Taurus only a length away third.

In winning Phar Lap claimed the title of Australia’s greatest stakes winner but he didn’t rest on his laurels lining up again a week later in the Essendon Stakes. Over the longer journey of 1 miles Phar Lap appeared unbeatable and there was no betting on the race. Phar Lap easily defeated his three rivals winning by three lengths from Lambra with four lengths to El Rey third. Again there was no betting in the King’s Plate where Phar Lap defeated Glare and El Rey. Although his victory seemed easy Tom Woodcock found that he was listless after the race.

Three days later a field of four faced the starter in the CM Lloyd Stakes where Phar Lap was the 1-3 favourite. The punters expected a win but Tom Woodcock was worried as the horse had been scouring and was colicky race morning before being reluctant to be led into the mounting yard. Phar Lap carried 60.5kg conceding 9.5kg to the opposition and on settling Temoin led by 6 lengths from Waterline then three lengths to Phar Lap. By the 800m Phar Lap joined Waterline and the pair started out after Temoin. On straightening Waterline and Phar Lap went to the front together with Phar Lap drawing a neck in front. The crowd expected him to race away but Waterline stayed with Phar Lap and soon drew level. The pair went stride for stride until inside the final 200m Waterline started to inch ahead eventually gaining the upper hand to win by a neck. Afterwards it was immediately announced that Phar Lap would be scratched from further autumn engagements and he headed for a spell at Underbank at Bacchus Marsh.

The following spring Phar Lap was back and resumed in the Underwood Stakes over a mile at the now defunct Williamstown track in late August. Due to heavy rain the Underwood Stakes was postponed to the Tuesday but it made little difference. Rondalina and Wise Force led as Phar Lap dropped well back early. By the 1000m he started to make ground and on straightening he raced away to win by nearly two lengths from Rondalina with Wise Force third. A week later he won the Memsie Stakes by 3 lengths from Rondalina and Waterline and then travelled back up to Sydney for the spring carnival.

There was no betting on any of his four races there. First in the Hill Stakes he defeated Chide and Waugoola then repeated the dose in the Spring Stakes defeating Chide and The Dimmer. In the weight for age Craven Plate there was no stopping him as he won by 4 lengths from Pentheus with 3 lengths to Chide in Australian record time. His final race in Sydney was the Randwick Plate over 2 miles. Only Chide lined up against him and again chased him home 4 lengths in arrears. Back to Melbourne Phar Lap lined up in the Cox Plate. The 1-14 favourite won by 2 lengths from future champion miler Chatham (who was to go on and win the next two Cox Plates) with another 3yo Johnnie Jason third.

Tom Woodcock had supervised the training of Phar Lap early in the spring as Harry Telford went back to Sydney to look after his now large stable. When Harry Telford took over again he felt Tom Woodcock had been too easy on Phar Lap and poured the work into him leading up to the big Melbourne races. After the Cox Plate he was given hard work outs every day leading up to the Melbourne Stakes. Phar Lap was last to jump but soon moved up to second place. On straightening he took the lead but instead of racing away he was soon challenged by Concentrate. Jim Pike reported that he felt Phar Lap change stride near the 400m but under hard riding he held on to win by a half length with Veilmond third. It took close to an hour for Phar Lap to recover from the race and stop blowing. He had now won 22 of his last 23 starts and was all the rage for the Melbourne Cup despite the huge weight of 68kg.

Harry Telford wanted to scratch from the Melbourne Cup fearing the big weight could cause the horse to injury himself at top speed. David Davis disagreed and it was his chance to win the race as an owner. In the end Harry Telford convinced David Davis scratching would be the best thing but the VRC pleaded with the American to run. The prizemoney had dropped to its lowest level since 1907 due to the depression and without Phar Lap the meeting itself would probably be a failure financially. So Phar Lap was left in the race.

Despite the hard run in the Melbourne Stakes Phar Lap was given hard work outs on both the Sunday and Monday leaving Harry Telford pleased with his condition. Tom Woodcock however saw signs of a tired horse and thought he was no chance. On track on the Tuesday both Harry Telford and Jim Pike could now see what Tom Woodcock had seen days earlier but it was too late to scratch the horse. Phar Lap jumped well and settled in fourth place. When the pace picked up he lost ground but had worked back to fifth by the 1200m. Turning for home he was still making ground but soon he started to feel the strain. White Nose raced away to win by two lengths from Shadow King with Concentrate staggering into third place after breaking down metres from the line with Phar Lap passing the post in 8th place.

The Australian public didn’t know it at the time but that was the last time Phar Lap would race in the country. In the autumn of 1931 David Davis had been invited to Mexico to discuss the chances of the Australian superhorse to run in the US$100,000 Agua Caliente Hcp the following March. Added incentive was that all transport costs would also be covered and David Davis was keen take his start to America. After the Agua Caliente it was expected that Phar Lap would be assured entry into some of America’s biggest races.

After a brief let up at Underbank Phar Lap boarded a train for Sydney on November 17 1931. Plans had been made for Tom Woodcock to take over training and for Billy Elliott to ride races while apprentice Jack Martin rode trackwork. Harry Telford had a large stable at Braeside that he couldn’t leave and Jim Pike believed he would not make the light weight expected to be assigned to Phar Lap. On November 20 Phar Lap was loaded onto the Ulimaroa in Sydney to head to New Zealand for a four week spell before continuing to California. Later the Monowai arrived from Sydney with Jack Martin and vet William Neilson with specially constructed enclosures including a sand roll. When the ship arrived in Wellington to be loaded with food for Phar Lap’s campaign news had broken that the Agua Caliente race club had run into financial difficulties. Then on New Years Day it was announced that the club would restart and the $100,000 race would still be run in March but two weeks later and the stakes would be halved.

During the trip Phar Lap would become agitated if he couldn’t see Tom Woodcock on the voyage to San Francisco so his attendant was restricted to spending the trip in the bosun’s cabin and deck. The Monowai arrived in the United States on January 15 1932. He was taken to Tanforan just outside San Francisco to acclimatise. Not use to walking on dry land Phar Lap struggled out of the float to the amusement of the huge number of press that had assembled to see this Australian superhorse. On January 25 1932 he started his journey to Mexico aboard a float from a trotting ranch at Atherton as rail travel had been unsuitable. He arrived 2 days later at Tijuana and despite being offered a stable in a central position Tom Woodcock chose a stable in a remote area of the block where the area could be modified for the comfort of the horse.

Turf writers and connections of the rival runners wanted to see how good Phar Lap was but Tom Woodcock wouldn’t comment. David Davis wanted to land a betting coup and instructed that nothing would be said about his progress. Phar Lap worked well before the 6am border opening and track watchers arrived to find the horse out walking. Two weeks before the Agua Caliente Phar Lap worked over 1600m in 1.3.8. Local trainers ridiculed Tom Woodcock’s training methods but he was slowly building the horse’s stamina with his method of several long slow work outs on the same morning. David Davis placed several bets on the 6-1 offered as the press questioned the true ability of Phar Lap and that he may not be up to the class of the field. Soon after the 1600m work out Phar Lap developed problems after a pebble lodged between his shoe and hoof of his off fore. A split appeared an inch from his coronet band and subsequently became infected. Nielsen drained and packed the injury but attempts to bind the hoof failed and it appeared with only 10 days left Phar Lap would not be running. The split got worse and with nothing to lose Nielsen tried a different technique where he removed the loose piece of hoof and cut out the split. Then Phar Lap was fitted with bar shoes on both front feet and restricted to walking for the next week.

Three days before the race Phar Lap had a work out over 1600m recording 1.36 4/5 and as news spread his price tightened to 6/4 eventually starting as the 6/5 favourite. 11 runners lined up for the Agua Caliente with Phar Lap carrying number 9. The start was delayed when Reveille Boy played up badly in the chutes. On jumping Phar Lap dropped back to last 10 lengths from the leaders. By the 1200m Phar Lap was urged forward and by the 800m he had circled the field to hit the front. With 600m left Reveille Boy started to make ground and Phar Lap looked in trouble but in the straight he bounded away again winning by two lengths in track record time.

Phar Lap calmly returned to scale but when attempts were made to place a garland on him Phar Lap pulled back resulting in him slipping down some nearby steps. In doing so he injured his near fore tendon and was quickly taken away as the presentation went on. On March 22 Phar Lap was taken back to Menlo Park at Atherton. David Davis started to plan his program despite the injury. After a break he was due to appear at Tanforan in an exhibition gallop then continue to race at the major racing centres.

After winning in Mexico Phar Lap was the world’s third greatest stakeswinner behind Sun Beau of the US and Ksar of France. His performance took the press by storm and those that were there declared he was one of the best ever. At Menlo Park Phar Lap was presented to visitors for 90 minutes each day the interest in the horse was so high. Meanwhile David Davis was signing a contract for Phar Lap to appear in a number of short films.

On March 31 1932 a neighbour sprayed some boundary trees due to a caterpillar infestation but there was a strong breeze when the spraying was carried out. Workers on the farm were informed and told to make sure the visiting Australian’s were aware of the spray.

On April 4 1932 1500 people came to see Phar Lap who was feeling well. A new bag of feed that had been newly delivered from storage was opened for his evening meal. All seemed well until the next morning when Tom Woodcock found Phar Lap listless in his box. William Nielsen diagnosed the early stages of colic. At 5am his temperature was slightly raised but by 11am it was 102 degrees. To stop him trying to get in the box Tom Woodcock took him outside to the training area. Meanwhile William Nielsen raced off to get the Tanforan racetrack vet to assist. Phar Lap began to stagger outside and was taken back to his box by Tom Woodcock and Jack Martin. Upon arriving he fell and despite desperate efforts to get up he finally collapsed and died shortly after midday.

The press turned up at 3pm expecting to see the afternoon parade but there was no one meeting them and they began to suspect problems and finally got the news from staff. Phar Lap’s death made the front page of US newspapers as it did back in Australia. The initial autopsy found that his stomach and intestines were inflamed consistent with poisoning rather than colic. David Davis called police regarding the possibility of poisoning and the entire stable was cordoned off. The bag of feed that provided the final meal was taken away not to be seen again.

A representative of the US Food and Drug Administration took samples and found that various amounts arsenic as found in the insecticide was there but of a reportedly low level, too low to poison the horse. 13 years later further investigations into the death found many suggested causes. Ranch owner Edward Perry reportedly blamed the imported feed becoming musty and damp in storage and that Phar Lap may have eaten some of the leaves from the sprayed trees while in the paddock. Another vet involved in the investigation reportedly found bots in his stomach and an impaction of the intestine while David Davis believed colic had killed him but flaws could be found in each theory with further research. No impaction was found in the initial autopsy and the feed was considered in good condition. New Zealand oats were brown while local oats were white and considered to have gone off is they are brown in colour. Other horses turned loose in the same paddock had been fine. The speed of the onset of the illness and death were considered too quick even for severe colic and Phar Lap didn’t sweat or try to roll. Another theory was that large quantities of gas had caused the problem. The gas is caused by fermentable green feed. Cows can contract this condition by green feed wet by morning dew and is relieved by insert a sharp object through the side of the animal into the stomach wall to release the pressure while a later theory suggests that a form of travel sickness killed the horse. The exact cause can only be speculated and will never be known.

Phar Lap’s hide was mounted by the best they could find at the time and when completed he was briefly on display at the races before being shipped to Australia. The stuffed hide arrived in Sydney on the Monowai on November 22 1932. It was then shipped to Melbourne and was displayed at the Capitol Theatre with his bridle and saddle. In January 1933 Phar Lap arrived at the Melbourne Museum where he was placed in a glass case that had earlier held the skeletons of Trenton and champion jumper Redleap. It has been on display to the public ever since but for a stint when the Melbourne Museum moved from it old building to the new location in Carlton. He has also very recently been placed in a specially constructed glass case. Phar Lap’s heart was sent to the Institute of Anatomy and was later moved to the temporary National Museum before moving to the New National Museum on the lake foreshores in Canberra. Phar Lap’s skeleton was sent to the Dominion Museum in Wellington New Zealand.

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