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1 correction by jhempenstall - Show corrections


How Ugly Duckling Was Bought

as Yearling


IN this, the third article of the series, Tom Woodcock, who was Phar Lap's faithful attendant throughout his rac-  

ing career, throws new light on the purchase of the cham- pion thoroughbred.

Hugh Telford, Harry's brother, had been asked to attend a sale and bid up to 200 gns. for the colt by Night Raid— Entreaty. But after this request had gone foth, another youngster in the catalogue caught Harry Telford's eye— a colt by Tea Tray—and he sent a letter to his brother ask- ing him to give the Tea Tray colt preference. Fortunate- ly, this letter, arrived too late, and Hugh, somewhat reluct- antly, bought the ugly duckling that was Phar Lap.

Woodcock also tells an interesting story concerning the misbehaviour of Phar Lap on the journey across to San Francisco.


To observe some sort of chronological

order, readers must start with Phar Lap and me from Baccus Marsh, where a fortnight's spell worked wonders. Coming to Melbourne by float, Phar Lap was entrained for Sydney, and it was remarkable the number of people who were at the stopping places to get a glimpse of him—for the last time.

Arriving in Sydney, I took up quar- ters with the Randwick trainer, J. Scul- ly, for a day or so until the Ulimaroa arrived from New Zealand. Although Phar Lap had only one experience with  

ships when he was shipped from New Zealand as a year-

ling, he entered the sling and was put aboard with

as little concern as though it was a daily occur- rence with him.

For once the mighty racehorse who had thrilled thousands at the leading courses of Australia was forced into lowly company. A buck- jumping show was aboard, and Phar Lap's immediate neighbour was a

donkey, and a   more cheeky little

devil never wore   an halter.

Possibly the nice straw bed- ding laid down for Phar Lap attract- ed the donkey, who persisted in

his attentions on   his lordly ship- mate. I had to enlist the aid of the ship's carpen- ter to put up

a partition, otherwise the donkey would not have lived to play his part, what ever it was in the circus. Phar Lap detested him for his cheek.  

It was a rough trip and I did not want my meals in the first two days.  

I stayed in the hold with the horse and was relieved to know he was a bet- ter sailor than I was, and not backward when the dinner gong sounded.  

Landing at Wellington we were met by Hugh Telford, Harry's brother, a former successful jockey who now has his training establishment at Trent-


The Lucky Purchase

Let me digress for a moment while I tell the important part Hugh Telford played in the life of Phar Lap. Having met him I got his story of the purchase of Phar Lap as a yearling, and this, tacked on to the story I already had from Harry Telford, gave me, first- hand, the interesting details of how lucky one can be in that legal lottery,

the yearling sales.

It appears that Harry Telford, as keen a student of breeding as any I know, was studying the catalogue of the New Zealand yearling sales. His fancy was taken by the breeding of a colt. Know-  

ing both the sire and dam he had a hunch that they would throw something out of the ordinary.

In vain he tried to convey his en- thusiasm to Bob Price, a Sydney book- maker and others in the hope of their buying his dream colt. It appeared too much of a gamble for them. Eventual- ly, however, he prevailed upon Mr. D. J. Davis, for whom he was training some horses, who agreed to go to 200 guineas.

Harry wrote to Hugh and instructed him to bid up to that sum for the Night


Who rode Phar Lap in America.

Raid — Entreaty colt if he had any sort of head and four legs. Hugh received that let- ter and went off to the sale to carry out his commis- sion.

In the mean- time Harry be- came enamoured of a colt by Tea Tray, and sent an- other letter asking his brother to give preference to the second choice if he thought fit.

Hugh did not receive that let- ter until he re- turned home from the sale with Phar Lap knocked down to him for 160 guineas.

He admits that the Tea Tray colt was an aristocrat alongside the one he bought.

When Telford   went to the Syd- ney wharf to meet

the new member of his string he  

was not thrilled witht hat he     saw. With a long ewe-neck, and spindly legs which he didn't know what to do with, the colt looked like the ugly

duckling of Randwick.

If Harry had any faith in him ever furnishing into a galloper, he was an


But there was worse to come. Mr. Davis went out to see his "purchase on the blind." He stood off and looked at him carefully and then asked in dis-   gusted tone if that was the horse he paid 160 guineas for.

He made it clear that he would not pay a bob a week to have such  

a colt trained.

Harry felt his position keenly. He   only had one graceful "get out" and that was to tell Mr. Davis that as he did not have the money to take the colt over he would do the next best thing and take a lease of him for three years.        

Mr. Davis considered it a good day's work to get out of such a liability, and readily, agreed to fall-in-with Telford's suggestion.    

The giraffe looking colt was christen- ed Phar Lap, a Cingalese name that means lightning. Could a more ap- propriate name have been selected for

such a speedster?


It can be imagined that Hugh Tel- ford was a proud man when he met Phar Lap and me on arrival, and

home was ours for five happy weeks.

People came from miles around pay homage to Phar Lap. They had something to be proud of, for he had already brought fame to the Dominion.

I was kept busy extolling Phar Lap's virtues and the daily audience thought him lovely, as he generally performed a few tricks at my bidding for their  


I exercised him at Trentham race-   course, but he was restricted to trot- ting and cantering.

I found myself looking forward to the arrival of the Monowai, on which we were booked to sail to America and which were Bill Neilson and Jack Mar- tin. I had a busy time getting every- thing in order for the trip.    

As we were taking New Zealand fod- der our baggage was heavy. We were not going to rely on America for any   of its foodstuffs, so it can be under- stood we had to take large quantities of oats, chaff, hay, etc.

The shipping company treated Phar Lap like the prince he was, and a   special box was built for him on the upper deck. It was approximately 14ft. x 14ft., and padded to guard against his knocking himself. He had a space between his box and a sand roll, and by walking him into his box, turning round and walking him to the roll and vice versa, he had good room for exer-


Although there was not a big passen- ger list, the chief steward complained that he had never used so much sugar on any previous trip. All the passen- gers took sugar from the basins and made friends with Phar Lap through

that medium.

In a Tantrum

On the trip from Sydney to Welling- ton I stayed in the box with Phar Lap. I began to think this was rather foolish and so I decided that I would seek a little more comfort on the remainder of the journey. But I had spoilt him. When I went into the dining saloon for my first meal after leaving New Zea- land Jack Martin rushed down frantic- ally to tell me that the horse was going


I tore up to him and pacified him, and then made another attempt to finish my meal. But he went through the same performance again and again, and I was forced to have subsequent meals in the bosun's cabin, where Phar Lap could see me all the time. He restricted me day and night to an area of 2oft.

The stay at Raratongo I'll never for- get. The Tahitians soon heard that there was a big horse aboard. They are used to seeing only small Shetland types, and Phar Lap caused great ex- citement among them.

In droves they were climbing up all round the box to get a look at the horse, who became excited at the attention boing paid him.

I did not know the "lingo" that would make the natives desist. so I got a stick and rapped all their fingers as they pulled themselves up to get a look.

The passengers thought it fine fun, but I took a more serious view of a high-priced thoroughbred going cranky in a limited space.

From Raratonga the weather became intensely hot, and Phar Lap's daily toilet included four hours' massage with witchhazel and methylated spirits, which kept him cool.

It surprised me to see how well his condition held. The exercise he receiv- ed on the boat though in limited space, was sufficient to keep him from getting


He sweated profusely in the tropics, and that proved healthy for him.

In the sand roll, which incidentally carried 10 tons of sand, Phar Lap enjoy- ed himself, often at my expense. He would stand on his hind legs and paw

the air in his exuberance, and I had to   dodge his forelegs as they descended.

He would bail me up in a corner and playfully snap my sleeves.  

When the nip took in a pinch of my arm I would signify my displeasure by scolding him and he would stop im- mediately, and be on good behaviour until his found my wrath gone.

I do not know whether other horses or sea trips could smell the land like Phar Lap. When a day off Raratonga, and again when a day out of San Fran- cisco, he looked in the direction of land and neighed.  

As Phar Lap was being swung ashore at San Francisco a link in the chain of the sling got caught up and the box   wobbled so much that the horse was frightened. Luckily I kent up in the slying with him, and one piece of sugar soon took his mind off screeching wind- lasses and wobbling horse-box.

He knew that what was good enough for me was good ènough for him.

We were met at San Francisco by Mr. Davis and Friends, also by a horde of newspaper men and photographers, movie and otherwise.

But what a day it was! It was dreary and cold, with snow on the hills, and I was told it was one of the worst days they had known for years.

Mr. Davis was anxious to give his friends a look at Phar Lap, as well as to allow the photographers to play their parts. Mr. Davis knew the value of   publicity.        

However, I was in charge of the   champion, and declared that he would not be stripped for inspection. What I said went.

I adopted that attitude purely from a safety standpoint, as Phar Lap was carrying his Summer coat, which shone like satin, and it would have been fool- hardy to expose him to the elements that prevailed on the day we landed in America.

As a matter of fact I would have been   proud to strip the horse, because his appearance would have reflected credit.

Everyone thought Phar Lap would want time to acclimatise, before the Agua Callente Handicap, but the race could not come along quickly enough for  

me. I was afraid that with Phar Lap getting his Winter coat in an American Summer would affect his form.

I had him cherry ripe and ready to run the race of his life a fortnight after landing.

(Next Saturday: Steve   Donoghue looks him over, asks for a ride and is refused, and nearly has his finger bitten off.)