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Title Image: The Legend
Media Star

Phar Lap became a champion at the very moment in time when modern media communications became a part of everyday life.

 AWA radio, 1932

From about 1926, the year Phar Lap was foaled, the races were broadcast on radio. And from 1930, the year Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup, people could visit the local cinema to see what were called 'talkie newsreels', short films with sound.

Newsreels offered a mix of current affairs and sport, rather like the television news of today. Patrons could watch their sporting heroes perform on the big screen just a few days after listening to their glorious wins on the radio.

Newspapers also got much better in this era. New layouts made them easier to read and improvements in 'action' photography accompanied a significant increase in sports coverage.

Effectively then, the depression created a special demand for a hero and the new media provided the means of delivery. Radios were large and expensive but you did not need to own one yourself. Wherever men commonly spent time—places such as pubs, billiard halls and barber shops—a 'wireless' would be on.

Many households also had a wireless, usually given pride of place in the lounge. It was nothing for twenty people or more to congregate at the "Jones' place" up the street and listen to a feature event. Favoured guests would be invited inside but kids especially would just sit outside on the veranda, listening to the radio through the window.

From Perth to Brisbane, people could tune-in to Phar Lap's latest race and feel as is they were part of the action, wherever that might be. Betting gave people a further sense of participation with racing. However, the odds on Phar Lap were mostly so short that people were behind him just because they loved him.

In the face of such a rapidly changing world, it was nice to have just one 'sure thing'.


Phar Lap versus Carbine

Horse racing in Australia is almost as old as European settlement. Such a talented galloper as Phar Lap would have made a huge impact no matter the era he raced.

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© Museum Victoria Australia