How has Phar Lap (racing horse) help create the Australian identity?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A gangly, wart-faced chestnut gelding, Phar-Lap [A southern Chinese dialect, similar to Thai, for "lightning"] brought international recognition to Australia in the race-horsing world as he became a legend.

Phar Lap was one of five inaugural inductees into both the Australian Racing Hall of Fame and New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame. In the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the Top 100 U.S. Thoroughbred champions of the 20th century, Phar Lap was ranked No. 22.

After his death, his hide and skeleton and unusually large heart were put on display at different museums. It is his heart, displayed in the National Museum of Australia in Canberra that has gained the most attention from museum goers and tourists as it is twice the size of a normal horse. During his lifetime, Pharlap continued to win no matter how he was handicapped for races; despite the extra weight, he finished first in 37 out of 51 races.  Because he defied the odds and because he raced in Mexico and the United States as well as, he gained international renown and brought attention to Australian racing.

There have been several books published about this remarkable horse, as well as a film made in 1983 entitled PharLap, and even a song "Phar Lap—Farewell To You," has been composed to honor him.  All of these, of course, have contributed to the "identity" of Australia.  Truly, PharLap was "a hero to a nation" as the advertisements of the movie declared, a symbol of Australian horseracing.

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