Phar Lap's Last Race: At Agua Caliente

Title:
Phar Lap's Last Race: At Agua Caliente
NFSA ID:
9126
Year:
1938
Category:
Access fees

Australian's hearts swelled with pride when Phar Lap won what would sadly be his last race at the Agua Caliente resort in Mexico. This was his first race in North America and were it not for his untimely death, he would have taken the US by storm.

The US commentator in the voice-over calls him 'one of the handsomest horses ever seen on an American track' and 'a real champion and a new racetrack idol'.

When talking about Phar Lap and his legacy no superlatives are spared. Peter FitzSimons writes in his book Great Australian Sports Champions, ‘In one of the most impressive bursts of sprinting the racing world has seen, Phar Lap simply wiped out the opposition and won the race, breaking the course record in the process’.

Australian racing journalist Bert Wolf, who'd made the trip to Mexico to cover the story for the Melbourne Herald, wrote ‘Phar Lap made all dreams come true yesterday to the shouts of 50,000 racing fans when he won the Agua Caliente Handicap. He did more to advertise Australia and New Zealand in the United States and Mexico than a million dollars. Today he is big news.’

To give an idea of how far Phar Lap's fame had spread, his team received a telegram which read ‘Heartiest Congratulations on great victory of Phar Lap - King George V'.

Phar Lap's jockey for the race was Billy Elliot, who knew him well and believed in his intelligence and stamina. Jim Pike, who rode Phar Lap to victory in the 1930 Melbourne Cup, said before the race ‘The only way they’re going to beat him is if they breed a horse with wings, and get Kingsford Smith to ride him’.

In this excerpt of the newsreel Phar Lap appears skittish after his win. The newsreel then cuts to a floral garland, meant to the be placed around the horse's neck but being held by his jockey. A Hollywood starlet and others from the Phar Lap team surround the horse. The Agua Caliente Handicap was the richest race in the world at the time with US$332,000 in the prize pot.