At first it was announced Phar Lap had died of the colic, but an autopsy showed heavy doses of arsenic in his stomach. Phar Lap had been poisoned. But how, and by whom? Many Australians were quick to assume that American gangsters had done it. Some Australians still believe it. But it is more likely that the poisoning was a dreadful mistake. A few days before Phar Lap died, a nurseryman had sprayed the trees of the ranch with a lead arsenic insecticide. It was too windy to do a good job, but he went ahead anyway. The spray, carried by the wind, coated the grass where Phar Lap grazed.
To this day the memory rankles in Australia, and Americans can still get into an argument in the nicest pub in Sydney over the Phar Lap tragedy. It is understandable. After all, they had sent us the best horse their continent had ever known, and we shipped them back a monument.