SIDELINES: Bones of contention emerge in horsey story

By Tom Scott

A favourite, gruesome piece of history detail from very junior school days concerns the role of the large, iron, cooking pots carried by armies heading off to the Holy Land on the Crusades.
They may well have been used to cook up the occasional mediaeval stew along the way but an equally important use was to boil down the bodies of dead crusaders retrieved from the battlefields.
Refrigeration and postal services being as they were in the twelfth century, it was a lot easier to send just the bare bones home for a Christian burial.
No doubt some relatives just left them in the packing case in a shed ... a bit like an unopened jig-saw puzzle.
News this week that Phar Lap's skeleton is to be sent from Te Papa to Melbourne to be exhibited alongside his stuffed hide to mark the 150th running of the Melbourne Cup revives some occasionally gruesome turf history.
He was bought for a bargain price at the 1928 Trentham Yearling Sales by David Davis, an American living in Sydney, who took a look at his skinny new horse when it arrived and refused to waste money on training it.
Hughie Telford, who had spotted Phar Lap in the sale, arranged to lease and race him.
Owner and trainers reputedly made a quick fortune off the bookies from the horse's first win, in his fifth start, paying odds up to 15 to 1.
It was the first success of the amazing career of 51 starts for 37 wins, 3 seconds and 2 thirds.
Remembered now as the peoples' favourite of the Depression years, he was not always popular. Racing was tough and sometimes crooked.

In 1930 Phar Lap was booed by the crowd after winning the Cox Plate. Public and press had been conned by misleading comments from the trainer and owner.
A few days before the 1930 Melbourne Cup, a gunman, possibly hired by a desperate bookie, fired a shot at the horse from a passing car. He missed and Phar Lap was hidden away until the race.
Phar Lap won the cup by three lengths. It was just one of four races he won during the week of the carnival.
Fields were often reduced to only six or fewer starters as owners and trainers refused to put their horses in the same race. Some bookies refused to accept bets in his races.
David Davis, the once reluctant owner, now knew he had a world beater, and Phar Lap was taken to America.
History records his easy win in the 1932 Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico. The US $50,000 stake took him to third place in world-record stakes.
Then he died ... killed, some say, on the orders of a gangster called The Brazilian. Others suggested arsenic poisoning from spray on a nearby paddock. Most likely, say others, was simply colic which often hit horses after long journeys.
His hide was stuffed by two of the world's best taxidermists and four or five months later the remarkably lifelike chestnut was reverentially unveiled in a Melbourne museum.
His outsize heart was preserved. It is now in Canberra.
His bones were shipped to Wellington in packing cases. They sat in the basement of the Dominion Museum for about five years.
A Racing Editor, Stan McEwen, got some quick action after a critical article and the skeleton was assembled and put on display in 1938.
Nearly eighty years after his glory days there is still argument over who has first claim to Phar Lap, known briefly in America as The Red Terror of the Antipodes.
A certain soccer result this week offers an alternative for those who like to share sporting glory ... a great four legged Australasian. A FAVOURITE, gruesome piece of history detail from very junior school days concerns the role of the large, iron cooking pots carried by armies heading off to the Holy Land on the Crusades.
They may well have been used to cook up the occasional mediaeval stew along the way but an equally important use was to boil down the bodies of dead crusaders retrieved from the battlefields.
Refrigeration and postal services being as they were in the 12th century, it was a lot easier to send just the bare bones home for a Christian burial.
No doubt some relatives just left them in the packing case in a shed ... a bit like an unopened jig-saw puzzle.
News this week that Phar Lap's skeleton is to be sent from Te Papa to Melbourne to be exhibited alongside his stuffed hide to mark the 150th running of the Melbourne Cup revives some occasionally gruesome turf history.
He was bought for a bargain price at the 1928 Trentham Yearling Sales by David Davis, an American living in Sydney, who took a look at his skinny new horse when it arrived and refused to waste money on training it.
Hughie Telford, who had spotted Phar Lap in the sale, arranged to lease and race him.
Owner and trainers reputedly made a quick fortune off the bookies from the horse's first win, in his fifth start, paying odds up to 15 to one. It was the first success of the amazing career of 51 starts for 37 wins, three seconds and two thirds.
Remembered now as the people's favourite of the Depression years, he was not always popular. Racing was tough and sometimes crooked. In 1930, Phar Lap was booed by the crowd after winning the Cox Plate. Public and press had been conned by misleading comments from the trainer and owner.
A few days before the 1930 Melbourne Cup, a gunman, possibly hired by a desperate bookie, fired a shot at the horse from a passing car. He missed and Phar Lap was hidden away until the race.
Phar Lap won the cup by three lengths. It was just one of four races he won during the week of the carnival.
Fields were often reduced to only six or fewer starters as owners and trainers refused to put their horses in the same race. Some bookies refused to accept bets in his races.
David Davis, the once-reluctant owner, now knew he had a world beater and Phar Lap was taken to America.
History records his easy win in the 1932 Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico. The US$50,000 stake took him to third place in world-record stakes.
Then he died ... killed, some say, on the orders of a gangster called The Brazilian. Others suggested arsenic poisoning from spray on a nearby paddock. Most likely, say others, was simply colic which often hits horses after long journeys.
His hide was stuffed by two of the world's best taxidermists and, four or five months later, the remarkably lifelike chestnut was reverentially unveiled in a Melbourne museum.
His outsize heart was preserved. It is now in Canberra.
His bones were shipped to Wellington in packing cases. They sat in the basement of the Dominion Museum for about five years.
A racing editor, Stan McEwen, got some quick action after a critical article and the skeleton was assembled and put on display in 1938.
Nearly 80 years after his glory days, there is still argument over who has first claim to Phar Lap, known briefly in America as The Red Terror of the Antipodes. A certain soccer result this week offers an alternative for those who like to share sporting glory ... a great four-legged Australasian.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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