Phar Lap (4 October 1926 – 5 April 1932) was a champion New Zealand-bred Thoroughbredracehorse who is widely regarded as New Zealand’s greatest racehorse ever. Achieving incredible success during his distinguished career, his initial underdog status gave people hope during the early years of the Great Depression. He won the Melbourne Cup, two Cox Plates, the Australian Derby, and 19 other weight for age races.
One of his greatest performances was winning the Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico in track-record time in his final race. He won in a different country, after a bad start many lengths behind the leaders, with no training before the race, and he split his hoof during the race.
After a sudden and mysterious illness, Phar Lap died in 1932 in Atherton, California. At the time, he was the third highest stakes-winner in the world. His mounted hide is displayed at the Melbourne Museum, his skeleton at the Museum of New Zealand, and his heart at the National Museum of Australia.
Phar Lap was called “The Wonder Horse,” “The Red Terror,” and “Big Red” (the latter nickname was also given to two of the greatest United States racehorses, Man o’ War and Secretariat). He was affectionately known as “Bobby” to his strapper Tommy Woodcock He was also sometimes referred to as “Australia’s Wonder Horse.”
According to the Museum of Victoria, Aubrey Ping, a medical student at the University of Sydney, suggested “farlap” as the horse’s name. Ping knew the word from his father, a Zhuang-speaking Chinese immigrant. Phar Lap’s trainer Harry Telford liked the name, but changed the F to PH to create a seven letter word, which was split in two in keeping with the dominant naming pattern of Melbourne Cup winners.