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Phar Lap's triumphant return to Australia

September 17, 2010

Phar Lap's skeleton has gone on display in Australia alongside his mounted hide to mark this year's 150th running of the Melbourne Cup.

Phar Lap's skeleton at the Melbourne Museum.
Phar Lap's skeleton was unveiled yesterday at the Melbourne Museum, standing in a case alongside his famous hide.

The bones travelled to Australia after Victoria's deputy premier and racing minister Rob Hulls sought to re-unite his skeleton, hide and heart for the Cup celebrations.

New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa, agreed to loan the skeleton, but the National Museum of Australia said the champion's heart was staying put in Canberra because of the risk of damage to its delicate tissues if moved.

Te Papa's communications manager, Jane Keig, said on Te Papa's blog that there was a palpable air of excitement around Melbourne Museum, as people queued and television crews jostled at the opening of the revamped Phar Lap display.

A Phar Lap-themed morning tea included cupcakes with icing carrots on top, horse head biscuits and another morsel which gave a nod to Phar Lap's heart, even though it could not make the party.

Hulls, who formally unveiled the skeleton, said it would be one of the highlights of the Spring Racing Carnival and was expected to attract 350,000 visitors to the museum.

"Phar Lap may be a New Zealand-bred horse but for most of his career he carried the hopes and hearts of all Australians in every race," Hulls said.

"The story of Phar Lap and his triumph against adversity to become a world-class champion is an enduring one and this exhibition reunites his skeleton with the display here at Melbourne Museum.

"To have this exhibition coincide with the 150th birthday celebrations of the running of the Melbourne Cup and 80 years after Phar Lap won the race is a timely and fantastic treat for the state."

The bones were flown to Melbourne in two custom-built crates lined with shock-absorbing foam to ensure the skeleton was stable during the journey from New Zealand.

The state government had contributed $A95,150 to the staging and transporting of the exhibition, Hulls said.

"When Phar Lap died in mysterious circumstances in 1932 in California, owner David Davis sent his hide to Victoria, his 14-pound heart to the National Museum in Canberra and his skeleton to New Zealand," Hulls said.

"This champion horse is already one of the most popular exhibits at Melbourne Museum and this is the first time Phar Lap's skeleton has left New Zealand since 1933.

"Racegoers and the community in general will find this a fascinating exhibit."

Phar Lap was bought for 160 guineas by trainer Harry Telford on behalf of American owner David Davis. He went on to win 37 of his 51 starts and started outright favourite in three successive Melbourne Cups, the only horse in the long history of Australia's most famous race accorded that distinction.

In 1930, he won a race on each of the four days of the Flemington spring carnival, including the Melbourne Cup, with 6.8 kilograms above weight-for-age.

The skeleton will remain on display until January 30. It is due back on display at Te Papa in March.



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