Phar Lap auction collection memories of a distant racing past

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 4th May, 2019

Australian turf legend Phar Lap is again in the headlines with the auction of a collection of his memorabilia through Abacus Auctions latest Melbourne sporting memorabilia sale from 11am Sunday May 19 at 19A Hampshire Road, Glen Waverley.

The Phar Lap auction collection, comprising 56 lots, belongs to avid stamp, antique toy and horse racing collector Dario Dicarla – who was kicked out of school aged 15 when he was caught at the TAB.

To add insult to injury, the horse he wanted to back was scratched and he didn’t even get to place a bet. However, Dario made up for his early misfortune in later years with, since 1994, shares in racehorses including Arapaho Miss who won the Victoria Racing Club Oaks in 2007.

His racehorse collection focuses on Australian champions including Phar Lap, Carbine, Rising Fast, Gloaming and Bernborough.

The Phar Lap collection contains several pieces with excellent provenance including those owned by key players such as auctioneer D.W.J. Gould, strapper Tommy Woodcock owner Charles Davis, trainer Harry Telford, and jockeys Jack Baker, Jim Pike and Billy Ellliott.

During his distinguished career, Phar Lap dominated Australian racing – winning a Melbourne Cup, two Cox Plates,  a (Sydney) AJC Derby and 19 other weight-for-age races.  

He is still the only horse to start odds-on in the Melbourne Cup and his incredible feat of winning on all four days of the VRC Spring Carnival has never been replicated.

Highlights include the 1930 Melbourne Cup official program showing a photo of Phar Lap after he won the race (lot 370).

Two very rare items are race books from the 1930 and 1931 Moonee Valley Cox Plates (lots 369 and 377) – both of which Phar Lap won.

Another is Phar Lap’s racing bridle used by Jim Pike during the 1930-31 racing season (lot 365).

Lots 383 and 384 show photographs of Phar Lap’s last race (and record time win) – the Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico on Sunday March 20, 1932 – after which he fell mysteriously ill and died.

At the time, he was the third highest stakes winner in the world.

Lot 385 features a New York Times headline and story on the win, while the next lot is (believed to be) a unique Prince of Wales Theatre poster featuring the win with the heading “Phar Lap’s Last Race”.

The auction contains many other sections including an extensive Olympics offering – the highlight of which is a 1928 Australian Olympic Team “baggy green” cap (lot 414) and a substantial 1956 Melbourne Games collection.

Cricket features a large Don Bradman memorabilia collection belonging to Don Moyes, while football has badges jumpers, photographs, posters, cigarette and trade cards from almost every AFL club.

Sydney Harbour Bridge memorabilia is another strong feature (under Australiana) – lots 498 to 502 – including an extensive collection of  pamphlets, magazines and newspapers surrounding its construction and opening in 1932. 

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