Phar Lap the topweight in "greatest" Cup

Legendary racehorse Phar Lap has been given the honour of carrying topweight in the fictional greatest-ever Melbourne Cup which was announced by the Victoria Racing Club on Wednesday.

Phar Lap, who won the Cup as a four-year-old in 1930, was given 60kg by Racing Victoria’s chief handicapper Greg Carpenter who had the task of rating his top 24 horses of the 149 Cup winners.

Dubbed the “Red Terror”, Phar Lap is the only horse to start odds-on favourite (8-11) in a Melbourne Cup.

A year earlier he had been sent out as the second shortest-priced favourite, even money, but was beaten into third place by Nightmarch who made the “greatest-ever” field at number 16.

Phar Lap was beaten only twice in 18 runs at 2400m or beyond, when third as a three-year-old in the 1929 Cup and when eighth as 3-1 favourite to White Nose in 1931.

After being unplaced with the crushing weight of the equivalent of 68kg, he was shipped overseas and won the world’s richest race at the time, the Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico in March 1932.


He won 32 of his last 35 starts with winning streaks of eight, nine and 14.

Carpenter weighted 1890 winner Carbine second on 59kg ahead of three-time winner Makybe Diva (2003-04-05) and dual winner Peter Pan (1932, 1934) who both received 58kg.

Master trainer Bart Cummings got four of his 11 individual Cup winners into the race – Galilee (fifth), Saintly (18th), Light Fingers (22nd) – with his dual winner Think Big (24th) just sneaking into the field.

Cummings’ father Jim is also represented by the 1950 winner Comic Court (ninth) who was strapped by Cummings.

Lee Freedman was the only other trainer to have more than one runner – Doriemus (23rd) and Makybe Diva who he trained to win the race in 2004 and 2005 after taking her over from David Hall (2003) who moved to Hong Kong and is still training there.

Irishman Dermot Weld, the only European trainer to win the Cup, got the first of his two winners, Vintage Crop (13th) into the field.

Those considered unlucky to miss out by Carpenter were the outstanding New Zealand stayer Even Stevens (1962) and Cummings’ mare Let’s Elope (1991).

Archer, who won the first two Cups in 1861-62, was rated 12th.

Carpenter said there were some wonderful horses who were beaten in the Cup and therefore ineligible such as Kingston Town (runner-up in 1982) and Tulloch, Tobin Bronze and the great mare Wakeful who was runner-up in 1903 under the equivalent of 63.5kg.

“Kingston Town in my own view would have probably been top three. He was such a star of Australian racing,” he said.

Carpenter pointed out that Tulloch was the only horse to receive topweight on original handicaps in the Cup on four occasions, from 1958-61.

“Other than injury and illness Tulloch perhaps would have been the best horse,” he said.

The field, unveiled at the Melbourne Museum to celebrate this year’s 150th running of Australia’s most famous race, is a chapter in the book The Story of the Melbourne Cup; Australia’s Greatest Race which was launched at the same function on Wednesday.

A phantom call of the fictional race will take place at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day.