New Zealand has triumphed even before the running of this year's Melbourne Cup, reclaiming a piece of its racing history.

A set of shoes worn by champion Phar Lap will be returning to New Zealand after a Kiwi buyer outbid an Australian at an auction in Melbourne on Sunday.

The four shoes sold for $32,000, plus buyer's premium of 20 per cent - far surpassing their presale estimate of $18,800-$25,000 - but not before some heated competition between the transtasman bidders.

"We had two very strong bidders. He [the Australian] would have been the underbidder so it would have gone to $24,000 and it was going up in $2000 increments. And then the successful buyer bid $26,000," said Giles Moon of Leonard Joel auction house.


New Zealand-bred Phar Lap was bought by American businessman Dick Davis and trained by Sydney man Harry Telford.

The shoes were the last items being offered by the Davis family and the timing of the auction before today's Melbourne Cup "played a very big part in the price realised", said Mr Moon.

"I think it was a fantastic result."

The shoes, each stamped "F. Cusdin", and three with a "7 H" stamp and two with an "R. WOOD" stamp, all showed signs of wear, the auction listing said. They are in a box with the message "Memo from Dick Davis" taped inside the lid.

The successful bidder is understood to be bringing the shoes back into the country tomorrow.

Another item in the auction was a photo album from the Davis family which includes 36 black-and-white pictures of the finishes of all of Phar Lap's wins in Australia. It is the only known complete set of photographs of the horse's Australian wins.

The album did not sell at auction but there had been a lot of interest in it since, said Mr Moon.

It was valued at $125,400-$163,100.

Phar Lap was foaled in New Zealand but trained and raced in Australia. He won the 1930 Melbourne Cup, one of 36 wins in Australia, before he died unexpectedly in the United States in 1932.

His skeleton is displayed at Wellington's Te Papa, his hide at the Melbourne Museum and his heart at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.