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NZ town reclaims its famous foal Phar Lap -

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ELEANOR HALL: To the town of Timaru in New Zealand, where this afternoon a bronze statue of the
town's most famous resident is being unveiled.

The racehorse Phar Lap was born in a paddock just outside Timaru back in 1926.

And as New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie reports, Timaru locals aren't stopping at the
statue. They also want to get the remains of the horse back from Australia.

RACE CALLER: Good luck Phar Lap. Australia is with you.

KERRI RITCHIE: New Zealanders don't mind too much that we've taken Russell Crowe but it's a very
big deal when Australia tries to claim Big Red as its own.

Stu Piddington is the sports editor at the Timaru Herald.

STU PIDDINGTON: In a paddock about 3ks outside Timaru, Phar Lap was born and of course the
racetrack where the statue will be unveiled is of course the Phar Lap racetrack. So yeah, we claim
first dibs, I guess. And we've got to watch you Australians, you seem to like claiming our Kiwi
icons.

KERRI RITCHIE: Phar Lap's hide can be found at the Melbourne Museum and his heart is in Canberra.

The Kiwis have his skeleton. It's in the Te Papa Museum in Wellington.

But Timaru residents want the world to know that the magic began there, half way between
Christchurch and Dunedin on the east coast of the South Island.

RACE CALLER: He's riding him out. The others are scrambling for second and third.

KERRI RITCHIE: Three years ago locals came up with the idea of getting a life-size statue of the
thoroughbred.

They paid for half of it themselves, raising more than $100,000.

Stu Piddington says today the dream becomes a reality.

STU PIDDINGTON: The Timaru Racing Club tried to get it off the ground about 10 years ago, and it
lost momentum actually. We won the America's Cup and all the corporate dollars went there. So about
three-and-a-half years ago Derek McCarty, the president of the local racing club, really got behind
the idea.

In the build up to it there's been a lot of talk, a lot of, I get publicity around it. Last week
they launched the specially labelled beer for $10 a bottle, a souvenir edition. So you can't go
anywhere in Timaru or South Canterbury without hearing about Phar Lap.

KERRI RITCHIE: Has anyone seen it or is it being kept under wraps?

STU PIDDINGTON: No it's being, it went into place at the weekend on Sunday but it's been well and
truly under wraps since then. Today we start with a heritage parade at two o'clock that's going to
be a big event out at the track beforehand.

We have a formal unveiling at which the Australian High Commissioner Paul O'Sullivan is coming
down. Lance O'Sullivan, one of our famous jockeys, along with Patrick Hogan, who horse breeders
will know as New Zealand's best, and the Mayor of Timaru Janie Annear will all take a turn at
unveiling the statue.

KERRI RITCHIE: Now it's life size, did you think about going bigger. In Australia we're very big on
our icons being the size of buildings - the big pineapple, the big banana?

STU PIDDINGTON: What they wanted was something that was life size and life-like and originally the
statue was to stand on leg but it weighs about 850kgs so they've had to, the leg that's extended is
also helping the statue go up.

But fortunately in Timaru you can get up close to it. It's only sort of six feet off the ground so
it's going to be a wonderful tourist attraction for anyone going down State Highway One. The trust
that have built the statue also hope later on to have an equine museum, then we might want the
heart and hide back of Phar Lap to go with the skeleton out of Te Papa National Museum so we can
have it all here. But that's a wee way down the track.

KERRI RITCHIE: One of your colleagues has just written a book and in that book it's been revealed
that the original breeder of Phar Lap thought that he was too big initially as a foal and too
gangly to make it as a champion. He would have felt a bit silly down the track wouldn't he?

STU PIDDINGTON: Yeah, look, of course the horse Phar Lap actually never raced in New Zealand. It
was sold at our yearlings sales and left straight away to race in Australia. But yeah, Pat McCord,
former sports editor of the Timaru Herald, along with Dr Graeme Putt have done a lot of research in
the book and that's a great story, that the breeder thought there was no chance for the horse the
way it ran and moved, yet it went on to become Australia's best known horse or Australasia's best
known horse.

KERRI RITCHIE: Phar Lap died mysteriously in California in 1932. It's thought he was poisoned.

RACE CALLER: Well old feller, this was your last race.

KERRI RITCHIE: Timaru is going to make sure nothing happens to its precious statue. It will be
surrounded by security cameras.

In Auckland, this is Kerri Ritchie reporting for The World Today.