Horse racing in Australia is almost as old as European settlement. Such a talented galloper as Phar Lap would have made a huge impact no matter the era he raced. But whether he would still be remembered with the same fervour twenty, fifty or even seventy years after he raced is an altogether different matter.
The story of another horse, called Carbine, provides an illustrative comparison with how Phar Lap has etched himself into the national conscience of Australia and horse lovers around the world. Carbine raced 43 times for 33 wins and nine placings over the years 1889 to 1891. His name is familiar now only to enthusiasts of racing history. But back in 1932, when Carbine was still widely remembered, people openly wondered who was greater: Phar Lap or Carbine?
Seventy years later it is possible to say that Phar Lap has won, comprehensively. Few experts put Carbine before Phar Lap. But really, Carbine never stood a chance. No calls were made of his races, no photographs recorded his wins in the papers and no camera committed him to film for adoring fans.
Carbine faded from popular memory, his achievements surviving only in the record books. Phar Lap became a legend.