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Phar Lap's heart on loan to NZ museum

9 JANUARY 2006

The National Museum of Australia in Canberra has agreed to the short-term loan of one of its iconic objects - the preserved heart of the mighty race horse Phar Lap - to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.

The heart will go on display in Te Papa for a month from 27 January, and will coincide with the centenary celebrations of the Wellington Racing Club's track, Trentham. It will be displayed alongside the horse's skeleton, held by Te Papa.

'We have a long working relationship with Te Papa and, after a formal approach through diplomatic channels, we assessed the possible impact of moving the heart and decided to loan it to the museum for a short time,' said the National Museum's general manager in charge of collections, Freda Hanley.

The Museum's conservation team has devised a plan for moving the heart to New Zealand, and two of its conservators will accompany it both to and from New Zealand.

Phar Lap is one of the legends of Australian sporting history. The famous 17-hand chestnut racehorse won 37 of his 51 races, including the 1930 Melbourne Cup, carrying a 62.6 kilogram handicap. He was the only horse in Australian racing history to have been favourite for the Melbourne Cup three years running.

Phar Lap was born in Timaru, New Zealand, in October, 1926 and died in the United States in April, 1932 in controversial circumstances. He was sold at the January 1928 yearling sales at Trentham and returned there for six weeks from December 1931 en route to the US to prepare for his final race in Tijuana in March 1932.

The horse's abnormally large heart, weighing 6.2kg (the average horse's heart weighs 4kg), was on display in the National Museum in Canberra when it opened in 2001. It has recently been featured in the Museum's Nation Gallery, as part of a new Australian Sports display and will return to the display in late March.

NOTE: Phar Lap's heart will be available for photographs in the National Museum's Nation Gallery until noon, Tuesday, 10 January .

For images, interviews or more information please contact Leanda Kitchen on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or Sandy Forbes on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or email: media@nma.gov.au