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Peter Pan – a legend that will never be forgotten

November 11, 2011

The story of Phar Lap is deeply ingrained in Australian folklore.

His rise from obscurity, his stunning career and his tragic death have been well documented in the 80 odd years since that fateful day on a California farm.

But less than six months after his death, an heir to the champion’s throne emerged – that horse was Peter Pan.

The son of Pantheon is the subject of a new book by Jessica Owers, titled Peter Pan: The Forgotten Story of Phar Lap’s Successor.

Peter Pan’s career, which spanned five seasons, saw him win two Melbourne Cups, two Melbourne (now Mackinnon) Stakes, two Hill Stakes, an AJC Derby, an AJC St Leger and a Rawson Stakes.

He broke the Australasian mile record in the 1935 All-Aged Plate, in the same season as his second Melbourne Cup, while he also boasted the scalps of the ilk of dual Cox Plate winner Chatham, Melbourne Cup winner Hall Mark, and the winner of a Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate in Rogilla.

First time author Jessica Owers is animated when we chat to her about her book, which was released on Melbourne Cup day.

For racing fans, it is clear that Peter Pan marks the dawn of a new age for racing literature in Australia.

Her passion is clearly evident as she recounts the story of the great galloper, and technically she has set a high standard for future publications.

So what was it about the dual Melbourne Cup winner that intrigued her so?

“He initially captivated me because of the way he looked – his flaxen mane and tail are really unusual physical traits in a racehorse,” Owers said from Sydney this morning.

“But I don’t remember the point precisely when I knew this could make a book.”

Owers says comparisons with Phar Lap are inevitable.

“There is a wealth of literature about Phar Lap, many grand and elaborate statements have been made about him, but many men of the age believe Peter Pan was equally as good as Phar Lap, if not better.”

“Don’t get me wrong – I truly adored Phar Lap – but it takes an incredible horse to break the Randwick mile record after a two year preparation as a stayer, in which he raced over distances up to two and a quarter miles (about 3600m).”

“This is one of Peter Pan’s many achievements.”

“Phar Lap’s legacy is a product of the Depression era, but Peter Pan deserves his place among the champions of the Australian turf.”

Interestingly, Peter Pan’s main set of colours – green and orange hoops with a green cap – have now been registered by Owers in the hope they will one day grace Randwick Racecourse again.

They have not graced Australian racetracks since they were retired upon owner Rodney Dangar’s death in 1950.

As for Owers, there is no time for rest, with her attention now firmly focused on a biography of a champion 1940’s galloper, due for release in 2013.

Peter Pan: The Forgotten Story of Phar Lap’s Successor (Random House) is available at all the best bookstores now.

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