The Mighty Conqueror

The Mighty Conqueror
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This ten-minute film is the only documentary made about racehorse Phar Lap during his lifetime. It was produced by Neville Macken and directed by pioneer female filmmaker Paulette McDonagh.

The film features superb close-ups of Phar Lap with handler Tommy Woodcock, who feeds him sugar cubes, and rare footage of him doing track work. The narrator informs us that he cost only £168 and has won £56,420 in winnings to date.

A photograph of part-owner and trainer Harry Telford’s son Gerald, whose nickname was Cappy, atop the horse 'like a pimple on a pumpkin' is followed by a still of Phar Lap after the AJC Derby victory.

In a press interview Telford talks about Phar Lap’s racing success, total earnings and the origins of his name. His name came from the Thai-Zhuang word for lightning - ‘like a flash on the sky’ - Farlap. Telford liked the name, suggested by physician Dr Aubrey Ping, but changed the F to Ph so he could create a seven letter word and then split it in two in keeping with the dominant naming pattern of Melbourne Cup winners.

Phar Lap is shown winning several races including the 1930 Melbourne Cup and the 1931 Randwick Plate – the only known footage of this race and the last time he would run at a Sydney race meet. Jockey Jimmy Pike, who rode Phar Lap to his victory at the Melbourne Cup in 1930 is interviewed after the victory commenting, 'I don’t think we’ll ever see his equal again’, and talking about the horse's intelligence and power.

The film finishes with Phar Lap being loaded onto the Ulimaroa at Sydney docks in November 1931, ultimately bound for the USA where he died tragically on 5 April 1932. The narrator says poignantly, 'Well old fella, this was your last race at Randwick. We're going to lose you and we're going to miss you, but we're with you to a man, Phar Lap. The rest is up to you.'