Those of you who are anything like me - and I hope for your sake that you all are - and who get a distinct swell of pride (or at least a tingling in the trousers) when contemplating the achievements of Australian Heroes will have been stunned to learn that yet another of our nation's icons stood upon a pedestal built squarely on a foundation of lies.
The publication in last weekend's Kitchener St. Moustache of extracts from the Tufnall Diaries has finally brought to light hitherto covered-up details of the sordid life and untimely death of that giant of the gee-gees, Phar Lap. Reg 'Spider' Tufnall (1911-1994), Phar Lap's trainer during the final decade of the horse's life, has revealed in his recently discovered diaries that while Phar Lap was indeed murdered in 1932, it was not by a sinister conspiracy between bookies and the owners of Equipoise, his arch-rival. Shockingly enough, it was Tufnall himself that poisoned Phar Lap's oats - not in a calculated move to end the champ's winning streak, but to finish his career as a whore-horse.
It transpires that Phar Lap, who had the heart of a nation, also had the sex drive of an hotel heiress. Tufnall had long suspected this: often, as society matrons passed by the barriers before a race, the priapic pony would get a fiery glint in it's eye, a flare in it's nostril, and an erection that was big enough, on one occasion, to seriously injure an unlucky jockey who was tightening the stirrups. The jockey in question, known ever afterwards as Bill 'One Eye' McKinty, is quoted as squeaking, "It was like being hit by a piledriver made of meat. Unstoppable."
But this was not a one-sided attraction. In the end, it was the many appreciative glances women (and indeed, sometimes men) cast at the horse's hard-ons that made Tufnall decide that there was a fast buck to be made, and Phar Lap was put out to stud in a novel and entirely disgusting way. One's natural repugnance and disbelief must take over here, so I can do no better than let Tufnall relay the matter in his own bizarre, faux-cockney manner: "Society dames? They's always bored, an' a'lookin' fer new hexperiences. I offered 'em the ride of their lives, an' once the rumour got round 'bout 'ow good 'e was, well...they was champing at the bit. They said 'e was the best ever, such a giving lover - the Errol Flynn of Flemington; the Casanova of Caufield. And the 'orse? You couldn't 'old 'im back. An' 'e never run better in 'is life."
And rumour of the long-necked Lothario's prowess spread fast. Debutantes, starlets, ingenues - all clamoured for a roll in Phar Lap's hay. The list of famous names in Tufnall's stud book is truly scandalous. An example: a much-debated passage in Eleanor Roosevelt's memoirs is now thrown into new light... "Went for another ride with PL today. A president is no competition. Must find a way to attach sugar cubes to ones bodice..."
It was Phar Lap's fame as a shagger that proved his undoing, however, as eventually Tufnall caught his wife, Edith, sampling the wares that had made him a rich man. Phar Lap's death was a crime of passion; it was an insanely jealous Tufnall, Edith's cries of pleasure still echoing in his ears, that strapped the fateful feed-bag over his equine gigolo's smug grin. Thus ended the sad and positively sickening tale of the horse and his pimp.
Disheartening as it is to discover that another of Australia's sporting legends is just another Shane Warne, the most disturbing thing about Tufnall's diary is the hints dropped in the closing passages that the practice of 'studding' is an ongoing one. Do horsey gels, their significant others either inadequate, away for long periods, or both, still queue up behind the stables for the ultimate ride? I for one hope not, but Bec Cartwright, I am looking hard in your direction.