7.3/10
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Phar Lap (1983)

The true story of an Australian racehorse that became a champion, with the help of a local stableboy.

Director:

Simon Wincer
4 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Tom Burlinson ... Tommy Woodcock
Richard Morgan Richard Morgan ... 'Cashy' Martin
Robert Grubb ... William Nielsen
Simon Wells Simon Wells ... Newsboy
Kelvyn Worth Kelvyn Worth ... Newsboy
Justin Ridley Justin Ridley ... Newsboy
Martin Vaughan ... Harry Telford
Brian Granrott Brian Granrott ... Reporter
Celia De Burgh Celia De Burgh ... Vi Telford
Steven Bannister Steven Bannister ... Cappy Telford (Younger)
Richard Terrill Richard Terrill ... Cappy Telford (Older)
Ron Leibman ... Dave Davis
Ross O'Donovan Ross O'Donovan ... Strapper
Ashley Grenville Ashley Grenville ... Strapper
Les Foxcroft Les Foxcroft ... Brazier Man
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Storyline

Phar Lap, the legendary Australian racing horse, is as well-known today for his mysterious death as for his fabulous accomplishments in life. Beginning at the end, the film flashes back to the day that Phar Lap, despite his lack of pedigree, is purchased on impulse by trainer Harry Telford. Phar Lap loses his first races, but Telford's faith in the animal is unshakable. Suddenly the horse becomes a winner, thanks to the love and diligence of stableboy Tommy Woodcock. American-promoter Dave Davis arranges for Phar Lap to be entered in several top races, where his "long shot" status results in heavy losses for the professional gamblers. Just after winning an important race in Mexico, Phar Lap collapses and dies; though the film never comes out and says as much, it is assumed that the horse was "murdered" by the gambling interests. Written by Hal Erickson

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Hero To A Nation See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Australia

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 April 1984 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Horse Called Phar Lap See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$2,878,404

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$2,878,404
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

After Phar Lap's death, his stuffed hide was donated to the Melbourne Museum (where it is one of the main attractions), his skeleton to Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and his heart to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. His heart was remarkable for its size, weighing 6.2 kg, compared with an average horse's heart weight of 3.2 kg. See more »

Goofs

Early in the film, in early 1928, Phar Lap's trainer Harry Telford (Martin Vaughan) insists that the horse's name must contain seven letters, because the names of the last four Melbourne Cup winners had contained seven letters. In fact, only one of the previous four Melbourne Cup winners in the period in question, 1924-27, had seven letters in its name - Windbag, in 1925. The other winners in that period were Backwood (1924), Spearfelt (1926) and Trivalve (1927). Nor did the subsequent 1928 winner, Statesman, nor the 1929 winner, Nightmarch (to whom Phar Lap ran third), have seven letters in their names. See more »

Quotes

James Crofton: Can't you fire that guy?
Dave Davis: If I did, the goddamn horse would sit in the stall for the next month and cry.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The original release opens with Phar Lap's death, with the rest of the film told in flashback. For it's American release where the story of Phar Lap is less known, the opening was removed, making Phar Lap's unexpected death more dramatic. See more »


Soundtracks

Little White Lies
(uncredited)
Written by Walter Donaldson
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Before there was Seabiscuit there was Phar Lap
20 October 2003 | by sol-kaySee all my reviews

*****SPOILERS***** True story about the New Zealand wounder horse that nobody wanted at first and that almost no horse could beat in the end.

Phar Lap ran up a string of victories from Australia to the United States that astounded the racing world then and even now it's hard to believe that such a race horse ever existed, he was just that good. like the saying goes: "It too good to be true" but it is. Winning 37 out of 51 races in his racing career with 14 wins in a row between 1930-1931 the only thing that could beat Phar Lap was the crushing weight that local handicappers put on his back to give the other horses racing against him a chance.

In Phar Lap's last race in 1932 he traveled to the United States to race against the best racehorses in the world at the Agua Caliente race track on the Mexican border. It was there for the first time in his life Par Lap raced on dirt not grass where he ran on in all his races and not only won but broke the track and world record for a mile and a quarter doing it. Tragically a month later Phar Lap collapsed and died in his stable.

Moving as well as exciting film about the great Phar Lap with Tom Burlinson excellent as Tommy Woodcock, the young stable boy who was the only one who had any faith in the horses ability and brought the best out of Phar Lap when everyone else gave up on him. With top performances from Ron Leibman and Martin Vaughan as Phar Lap's owner and trainer who over the years with him began to see Phar Lap not as a racehorse but almost human.

One of the most stirring finals you'll ever see in any movie with Phar Lap beating the best there is in the world of horse racing in the Mexican desert at the Agua Caliente race track racing with an injured hoof and carrying a high weight of 129 pounds. Later after the race when Phar lap breaks down and dies the shock and heart felt loss, especially by young Tommy Woodcock, was one of the most touching and moving scenes I've ever seen in any film. You can really see what that horse meant to everyone who had the privilege to be involved with him. Great movie, but what makes it even greater is that the story is unbelievably true.

P.S One more thing about the movie, the part of Phar Lap was played by a horse named Towering Inferno.


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