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PHAR LAP AND THE GEELONG CONNECTION ~ Victoria Australia

PHAR LAP AND THE GEELONG CONNECTION

I was very surprised by the interest my talk on the Melbourne Cup generated. Many members asked me questions for a long time after. Therefore I have decided to write a few lines about the great horse Phar Lap. Together with the cricket legend Don Bradman, Phar Lap ranks as a stand out icon in Australian sport.

Next time you head out through Breakwater to Wombat Gully Nursery to get plants or shrubs take a few minutes and head south on Wilson’s Road which intersects with the road going to your destination. Not far down Wilson Road is an old dwelling on land that was once a famous horse stud. This area is known as St Albans Park. It was here in November 1930 that Phar Lap spent the night before he won his historic Melbourne Cup. Why he was secretly housed at St Albans Stud is as follows.

Following a very successful campaign in Sydney in the spring of 1930 Phar Lap came back to Melbourne and won the prestigious W.S.Cox Plate (the Weight for Age Championship of Australasia). After this his next race was scheduled for Derby Day (the Saturday before the Melbourne Cup). On the morning of Derby Day he was taken to Caulfield racecourse for work and as he was being led back to his stables outside the course, a car approached and the men in the car tried hard to frighten the horse by continuously blowing the car horn and one occupant even fired a gun before the vehicle sped off.

The trainer Harry Telford on hearing of this from the horse’s handler asked for police protection for his champion’s journey to Flemington for his race that afternoon. Unaffected by what had happened Phar Lap won the race with ease. Whilst at Flemington Harry Telford quietly asked the owner of the St Albans Park Stud in Geelong for permission to house Phar Lap there in secret before Tuesday’s Cup. The request was granted so in the early hours of the Sunday morning Phar Lap was transported to St Albans Park Stud with very few knowing of the horse’s whereabouts. The racing world was a buzz with ‘where was Phar Lap’. During the next couple of days Phar Lap exercised around the Stud and on isolated roads nearby. Remember in those days St Albans Park would have been a quite area with very few inhabitants.

On the morning of the Melbourne Cup, Phar Lap was taken to the Geelong racecourse and given a serious gallop to prepare him for the big race that afternoon. About midday the great horse was loaded into a float for the journey to Flemington but the truck would not start. An hour and half later the attendants managed to get the engine started. The rest is history how Phar Lap easily won the Melbourne Cup in 1930 and gave joy and hope to lots of people in the early years of the Great Depression.

Jim

Reference: The Melbourne Cup, 1861-2000 by Maurice Cavanough et al

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