What is the name of Australian-NZ champion race horse who was said to be poisoned?
#130073. Asked by harvey4. (Mar 20 13 1:33 AM)
PHAR LAP 'DIED FROM ARESENIC POISONNG'
The Age - 19th June 19, 2008 - from AAP
Phar Lap achieved what many a rock star has promised but not delivered - live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse. Mystery has always surrounded the tragic death in America of the champion gelding during the Depression years when he was at the height of his powers, with arsenic poisoning long suspected.
Two researchers - Dr Ivan Kempson from the University of South Australia and Dermot Henry, manager of Natural Science Collections at Museum Victoria - have now confirmed those suspicions. But they can't answer the other burning question - whose hand gave Big Red the arsenic?
Dr Kempson took six hairs from Phar Lap's mane and analysed them at the Advanced Photon Source Synchrotron in Chicago and found it was possible to distinguish between arsenic which had been ingested and arsenic which had been used in the taxidermy process. He found that in the 40 hours leading up to Phar Lap's death in a California stable in April, 1932 the horse had ingested a massive dose of arsenic. "We can't speculate where the arsenic came from, but it was easily accessible at the time," Mr Henry said.
History suggests it was probably strapper Tommy Woodcock who may have mistakenly put too much arsenic in one of his tonics for his beloved Phar Lap. Woodcock was acting as trainer for the first time on the trip to the US, with Phar Lap's regular handler Harry Telford remaining at home to look after the rest of his stable.
Museum Victoria recently obtained Telford's handwritten notebook of homeopathic recipes which were used to stimulate horses. The museum bought it at auction for $38,000 in April and it contains ingredients involving arsenic and strychnine that were used in tonics and ointments.
Telford purchased Phar Lap in New Zealand in 1928 and after four unimpressive starts in Australia, the majestic dark chestnut gelding won the 1929 Victoria and AJC derbies followed by the 1930 Melbourne Cup. Between September 1929 and March 1932, Phar Lap ran 41 races and won 36 of them. It was an astonishing performance. With the advent of newsreels, the 17-hands-high Phar Lap became one of Australia's greatest sporting heroes as his name and deeds spread far beyond the confines of the racetrack. In his one and only race in America, Phar Lap won the 1932 Agua Caliente Handicap, the richest race in North America at the time.
But he never raced again. Woodcock found the champion horse seriously ill on April 5 and within hours Phar Lap was dead - and the legend born.
Curator Michael Reason, who successfully bid for Telford's notebooks, doubts there is any more Phar Lap memorabilia floating around. He said the 1930 Melbourne Cup was probably melted down by Telford and sold for its metal value. "There was no sporting memorabilia market back then and the temptation would have been to melt it down and sell it," Mr Reason said. Phar Lap's Cox Plate cup was recently purchased by Makybe Diva owner Tony Santic for around $400,000 and if the 1930 Melbourne Cup has survived, Mr Reason says it would be worth more than $1 million.
Phar Lap's skeleton is on exhibit in Wellington at the Museum of New Zealand and his heart is at the National Museum in Canberra. His stuffed body - his hide mounted on a shell of moulded materials - is one of Melbourne Museum's most popular exhibits.