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Title Image: The Legend
The Times

In hindsight, the coincidence of Phar Lap's rise, triumphs and death with the years 1929 to 1932—the years of the Great Depression—were exceptionally well timed.

 Betting ticket

During the 1920s Australia's economy was good and the living standards of most people improved. But there were worrying signs as the decade drew to a close. Prices for Australian products such as wool and wheat began to fall in 1929; many farmers and businesses began to lose money. Industries collapsed, putting more than one quarter of Australia's workers out of work by 1932.

Tenants unable to pay rent were evicted from their homes. Some lived in shanties. People sold their furniture, begged for rotting vegetables, wore holes in their shoes looking for work.

Unlike today, there were no cash unemployment benefits in the 1930s. The 'dole' consisted of food rations often given to men who worked on special government projects such as making roads. To many people it was humiliating and depressing to be unemployed and receive charity instead of wages.

It was just when the economy turned bad that Phar Lap came good. Black Friday, the name given to the day the stock market collapsed on 28 October 1929, coincided almost to the day with the shift in perception of Phar Lap from 'just another racehorse' to that of 'rising champion'.

Phar Lap broke records as the economy broke down. Phar Lap won money as unemployment reached thirty per cent. He was a tonic for an increasingly tired and emotionally drained society. Between September 1929 and March 1932, Phar Lap ran 41 races over a variety of distances and won an astonishing 36 of them.

scrapbook

A lifelong fan: Marie Davie

'Saw "Bobbie" first time Saturday Oct. 25th at Moonee Valley when he won as he liked the W.S. Cox Plate...'

From the scrapbook of Marie Davie
link to full story

© Museum Victoria Australia