133 Following

Sarah's Library

I read pretty much anything, from fantasy (City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett) to romance (Bared to You by Sylvia Day) to classics (Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad).  The only genres I don't read are self-help and comic books/graphic novels.

Currently reading

The Last Honeytrap
Louise Lee
Progress: 100/346 pages
Complete Works of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

Melbourne Cup 1930 by Geoff Armstrong & Peter Thompson

Melbourne Cup 1930: How Phar Lap Won Australia's Greatest Race - Geoff Armstrong, Peter Thompson

27/10 – So my local library set us a challenge to read a horse-related book and write a review of it.  My personal challenge was to find a horse-related book that I was likely to enjoy, and review it, I usually need to have some possibility of enjoying the book because I find it much easier to write a thorough review of a book if I’ve enjoyed reading it first.  Melbourne Cup 1930 is, clearly, about the Melbourne Cup of 1930, focusing most of its plot on the attempted shooting of Phar Lap, and the subsequent police investigation, the Saturday before the Cup.


Full of history and background about, what seems like, every horse that won an Australian horse race prior to the 1930 Melbourne Cup, it can get a bit tedious for a reader like myself who isn’t all that interested in horses, horse-racing or the characters that are involved in that world.  So while I was reading the background for all the humans that were somehow related to any of the horses mentioned, I was thinking “when are we going to get back to Phar Lap?”.  One of the more interesting facts I learned about Phar Lap is that his name, Phar Lap, is Siamese for Lightning.


I think my grandad might get more out of this book than I am.  He is a long-time horse racing fanatic who actually owned a horse in his hey-day.  Then he went and made an unfortunately large bet on a horse that didn't win and lost a considerable amount of money (around a house's worth), after that experience he promised my grandma that he would never put money on a horse again, and, 30 or 40 years later he is still keeping that promise. He watches, and wins hundreds in monopoly money (except for 26/10/2013's Cox Plate where he had his money on It's A Dundeel and it placed 8th after Shamus Award won), every race weekend but no real money changes hands.


Except for a short chapter detailing the attempted shooting of Phar Lap while he was being walked back from the Caulfield Racecourse after an early-morning workout session, and little interjections here and there on the continuing investigation the book was mostly Phar Lap free.  There was more about the backgrounds of his owner, trainer, the detectives involved in the case and even some of the well-known bookies making (and losing) money in the first 3rd of the last century.  In the end Armstrong and Thompson come to the probable, but not certain, conclusion that the shooting was a hoax.  They base this conclusion on all the strange pieces of evidence for e.g. completely absent shotgun pellets after the discharge of a shotgun the day of the incident, then suddenly five or six of them appear out of nowhere the next day.  Other strange occurrences included the fact that the newspapers stopped reporting on the shooting the Wednesday after the Cup (the papers were full of rumours in the days immediately after the shooting, leading right up to the Cup, then they seemed to forget about it, despite there being no resolution), the conflicting ‘eyewitness’ accounts from people who couldn’t have been anywhere near the shooting at the time it happened and, most compelling, the fact that if it had been a real ‘hit’ the shooter wouldn’t have missed.  The car was only a metre or two away from Phar Lap and firing a shotgun isn’t precision work, you just have to aim in the general direction of your target and you’re likely to hit it with one of the 100 or so pellets in the shotgun cartridge.


Near the end of the book a previous book, also written by Armstrong and Thompson, about the death of Phar Lap is mentioned and I wish that had been the one I’d picked up for this challenge as I think I would have found it more interesting (although, at the same time a little frustrating as nothing can be definitively proven all these years later).  Anyway, a decent little book associated with the Melbourne Cup, finished one day before the 83rd anniversary of the ‘attempted shooting’ of Phar Lap, Australia’s greatest racehorse.