Australian Screen

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Phar Lap (1983)

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clip Lightning strikes

Original classification rating: G. This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

Mr Telford (Martin Vaughan) arrives at the stables with his son Cappy (Steven Bannister). Telford tells Tommy the strapper (Tom Burlinson) to take Phar Lap for his morning workout and work him hard. On the training track, other trainers joke about Phar Lap’s chances. Tommy tells his mate 'Cashy’ Martin (Richard Morgan) to try something different. Cashy is to ride ahead, while Tom holds Phar Lap back. The technique works: the big red horse likes to come from behind.

Curator’s notes

This is the film’s first full-scale romantic moment – the beginning of the horse’s rise to champion. It’s the first time we really get a close-up of him running and the shots are designed to capture all the power and beauty of the horse in full gallop: from the side, behind and in front. Bruce Rowland’s music adds the sort of lyrical theme that he contributed to The Man From Snowy River (1982), made a year earlier (with Burlinson on horseback for the first time). Much of the film is about the uglier side of horseracing but these scenes are about the 'sport of kings’ – a noble undertaking in which man and beast are one, allegedly.

The reference to lightning is because that is what the name means. 'Farlap’ is a Thai-Zhuang word for lightning, suggested to Telford by a young Chinese-Australian medical student. Telford changed the spelling and made it two words to achieve seven letters – the same number as several Melbourne Cup winners.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

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  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

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