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Title Image: The Horse
1930 Melbourne Cup

On the Saturday before the 1930 Melbourne Cup, there came an unpleasant reminder that racing can attract men with rotten intentions.

In a quiet suburban street next to Caulfield racecourse, as Tom Woodcock walked the champion back to his stable after a morning gallop, a car rounded the corner and a masked man in the back seat shot at Phar Lap.

Newspaper Headline

The shooting

The attempt by gunmen to shoot Phar Lap made front page news in Melbourne. An eyewitness to the sensational incident was a young Robert Philpots.

link to full story

Amazingly, Phar Lap still ran that afternoon in Derby Day at Flemington. And he won. But to leave it at that is to miss the point: he beat them, he humiliated them, he streeted them. His winning margin in the Melbourne Stakes was ten lengths, making it clear that the shooting incident had not affected him at all.

Further, it showed that Phar Lap was very much in contention for Tuesday's Melbourne Cup. But Harry Telford was taking no chances with the champion. He quietly shifted him in the dead of night all the way to a friend's property near Geelong.

Not until just a few hours before the Melbourne Cup was due to start was Phar Lap loaded onto a float for the journey to Flemington. But the best–laid plans often come to grief. The float would not start. All manner of tinkering and swearing and pushing was tried before it eventually spluttered into life and they got moving. The float arrived at Flemington with a police escort and with only one hour to spare before the race.

After such a hectic couple of days the race seemed like the easy part. The 1930 Melbourne Cup was the first to be captured on 'talkie' film. It shows that Phar Lap won easily—very easily. Despite the huge weight given to him by the handicapper (9 stone 12 pounds), Phar Lap was able to move right away from the field at the top of the straight and come away to win by three lengths.

To use the popular phrase of the period, it was another example of 'Phar Lap first, daylight second.'

Phar Lap Winning Melbourne Cup

1930 Melbourne Cup on film

Here he is with nine stone twelve, one hundred and thirty-six pounds, as a four year old in the Melbourne Cup of Nineteen Hundred and Thirty.

link to movie

© Museum Victoria Australia