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Melbourne Cup 1930

How Phar Lap won Australia's greatest race

Melbourne Cup 1930 by Geoff Armstrong
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Phar Lap's assault on the Melbourne Cup generated unprecedented excitement across the country. At the same time, it filled many bookmakers with dread — a victory for the favourite would cost them plenty. He'd have to be stopped, whatever the cost.

For the newspapers, the twin stories of sporting greatness and seedy corruption were a sensational cocktail. Readers lapped it up, while for the poor punters, suffering during the Great Depression, a Phar Lap triumph was their best hope of turning one quid into two.

Melbourne Cup 1930 is the story of four days in November that became at the same time the most famous and infamous in Cup history. It began with a gunman, like something out of a Chicago gangster movie, apparently trying to kill Phar Lap on a quiet suburban street. With his life in danger and those closest to him terrified, the champion was spirited away to a secret location, while one of the city's most celebrated detectives searched for the culprits.

Meanwhile, the other horses, owners, trainers and jockeys were preparing for the biggest race of their lives. Their many diverse stories and the memories they invoke of Cups gone by are an integral part of this unique tale.

An hour before the jump, Phar Lap's whereabouts remained a mystery. Finally, he arrived at Flemington, to go almost immediately to the start as a huge crowd cheered him on. The police had been told to put men down the back of the track, in case the gunman tried one last time, but they now believed that the original assassination attempt might not have been all that it seemed.

Nothing — it appears — could stop Phar Lap now …

Allen & Unwin; November 2005
228 pages; ISBN 9781741158649
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: Melbourne Cup 1930
Author: Geoff Armstrong; Peter Thompson
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