Australians solve mystery of what killed Phar Lap, prize race horse

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For more than 70 years, Australians have been convinced American gangsters murdered their champion racehorse, Phar Lap, who died suddenly and agonisingly at the peak of his career while preparing to take on the US racing scene.

Now their suspicions of foul play appear to have been backed by science, with medical tests suggesting the five-year-old chestnut gelding was poisoned with arsenic.

Phar Lap, who triumphed in 37 of his 51 races, including the 1930 Melbourne Cup, the country's Grand National, won Australians' hearts during the Great Depression and is still regarded as a national hero.

But, in April 1932, days after winning North America's richest race, the Agua Caliente in Mexico, he collapsed at his stables in San Francisco. His trainer, Harry Telford, found him in severe pain and with a high temperature. A few hours later, he died from internal bleeding. The most popular theory is that Phar Lap was poisoned by gangsters who, because he appeared unbeatable, feared that he would disrupt their illegal gambling rackets.

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