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Phar Lap And Man Of War - Two Of The Greatest Racehorses Of All Time.

Updated on March 4, 2014
Phar Lap.
Phar Lap.

Phar Lap

Phar Lap was one of the greatest thoroughbred racehorses ever to come out of Australia. Phar Lap was actually foaled in New Zealand but was to capture the imagination of the Australian public like no horse before or since. Phar Lap had an incredible racing career in Australia, winning two Melbourne Cups, the Victoria Derby and the AJC Derby, the Cox Plate as well as many other weight for age races, but it was when Phar Lap traveled to the USA when the horses story gets really interesting.

The name Phar Lap means lightning " sky flash " in the Thai language and the speedy horse made his foreign debut at the Agua Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana Mexico. Phar Lap raced in the big handicap race which was offering the biggest prize for a horse race ever seen in the Americas. The Australian Horse won in a record time and was then sent to Menlo Park in California to allow his owner to negotiate his schedule. In early April 1932 one of Phar Lap's handlers found the horse in severe pain and suffering from a high temperature, within hours Phar Lap was dead, the horse had hemorrhaged to death.


So what did cause the death of this great racehorse? Even today it is not completely clear. Phar Lap was found to have large amounts of arsenic in his blood stream, at the time Phar Lap was racing, arsenic was quite a common ingredient in a tonic given to horses. a necropsy revealed the horses stomach and intestines were inflamed. Conspiracy theories ran amok after Phar Lap's death, one strong rumor suggestion the horse had been killed at the behest of mafia bosses who feared big losses with people betting on the horse with their illegal bookmakers, accidental poisoning looked another possibility. In 2008 scientists in Chicago re- tested samples from Phar Laps mane and came to the conclusion the horse had died from a massive overdose of arsenic, this finding contradicted previous scientific tests which concluded death by acute bacterial gastroenteritis. To further confuse the story in 2010, Phar Laps handler Tommy Woodcock claimed the horse was never given any tonic containing arsenic and that the horse had died of an infection.

Whatever the cause of Phar Lap's death he went on to become a great cultural icon in Australia and New Zealand, after preparations by a taxidermist his body was donated to the Melbourne Museum, his skeleton can be seen in the National Museum of New Zealand and his heart in the National Museum of Australia.

Phar Lap is inaugurated in both the Australian and New Zealand Racing Halls Of Fame and is ranked number 22 in The Top 100 US Thoroughbreds Of The 20th Century.

Man Of War.
Man Of War.

Man Of War

On the list of Th,e Top 100 US Thoroughbred Champions Of The 20th Century, Man Of War is ranked number one. Man Of War's list of major wins is incredible, racing just after World War One he raced in 21 races winning 20 of them, winning the staggering amount for the time of $249,465.

Man Of War was named by his owners wife in honor of her husband August Belmont Jr who incredibly joined the US Army at the age of 65 to fight in France during the first World War. After the Belmont,s decided to liquidate their racing stable Man Of War was sold for $5000 to Samuel Riddle.


As a two year Man Of War suffered only one defeat, when the barrier was raised at the start of the Sanford Memorial Stakes, Man Of War was still circling with his back to the rest of the field, to compound his bad start his jockey managed to get the horse boxed in by the other horses, even after these problems he still came close to winning only losing by half a length.

At 3 years old Man Of War did not compete for the American Triple Crown as his owner did not like racing in Kentucky and felt 3 years of age was too young for a horse to be running a mile and a quarter ( Kentucky Derby), however he did win the other two legs winning the Preakness Stakes in a record time and the Belmont Stakes by 20 lengths.

At the end of Man Of War's final season it was becoming increasingly difficult to get a horse to compete against the seemingly unbeatable champion. In the Lawrence Realization Stakes only one horse was willing to race against him ( Hoodwink ), Man Of War was to win by 100 lengths !

The final race of Man Of War's glorious career was a match race where he was pitted against the great champion Sir Barton, Man Of War won easily, even being slowed at the finish and still won by 7 lengths.

In his short career Man Of War broke 3 World Records, two American records and also set 3 Track records. A remarkable horse that also went on to sire some great champions.


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