April 26, 2008

The mighty Phar Lap. Jim Pike up and Tommy Woodcock leading.

The auction of a book of concoctions used by Phar Lap's trainer and part-owner Harry Telford has further fuelled debate over how the mighty racehorse died.

The 82-page notebook went under the hammer in Australia on Wednesday night for $A37,862, including sales commission, to Melbourne Museum.

The cause of the death of the New Zealand-born racehorse in the United States in 1932 has been the source of speculation ever since.

Theories for Phar Lap's death range from a deliberate criminal act by illegal betting interests to accidential poisoning.

Arsenic poisoning has also been suggested, with traces having been found in Phar Lap's remains, parts of which are on display in various museums in Australasia.

Telford's book contains various tonics for horses.

While there is no specific evidence any of them were given to Phar Lap, it certainly indicates Telford was familiar with the use of agents such as cocaine, caffeine, belladonna, strychnine and arsenic for the dosing of horses.

The dosing of horses with small quantities of these substances was common earlier last century.

Phar Lap won the 1930 Melbourne Cup. He died having won 37 races from 51 starts. He scored a victory in his first race on US soil, in California, before his death.