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Dan Patch

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Minnesota Historical Society Press
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Dan Patch driven by M.E. McHenry, his first trainer

Dan Patch driven by M.E. McHenry, his first trainer, in Dan Patch's younger days, c.1900.

Sired by a champion pacer and born in 1896, Dan Patch was bred to be a racehorse. At first glance, though, his chances didn't look too good. He had long legs, knobby knees, and worst of all, a sweet disposition—not considered an asset in the hypercompetitive world of harness racing. "I thought all he would be good for would be hauling a delivery wagon," said his first owner.

Luckily, a stable owner took an interest in the little charmer and began training him for a life on the track. After four years he was ready—and once he started running, he never looked back. Dan Patch was a pacer, a horse that pulls his driver in a wagon in harness races. He lost only two heats in his career and never lost a final race. So fast that other owners eventually refused to race their horses against him, Dan Patch spent most of his career running against the clock.

By December 1902, when Minneapolis businessman Marion Savage bought him for $60,000 (about $1.2 million today), Dan Patch was famous in horse-racing circles. Savage's friends questioned his extravagance, but Savage had a plan for recouping his investment. Savage's company, International Stock Food, was a large operation that sold feeds and tonics to Midwestern farmers and ranchers. Dan Patch was soon featured in the company's advertisements, and within a year Savage's sales had risen from $1 million to $5 million.

Decades before images of sports figures began appearing on cereal boxes and in TV commercials, Dan Patch began "endorsing" everything from cigars to cars to washing machines. Under Savage's watchful eye, he was transformed from a racetrack wonder into a household name. Adding to his reputation was his continued high level of performance at exhibitions. On Saturday, September 8, 1906, Dan Patch made horse-racing history when he set a new world record by pacing a mile in one minute and fifty-five seconds. Savage changed the name of his farm in Savage, Minnesota, to the International 1:55 Stock Food Farm, and his horse's record stood until 1938. Dan Patch died on July 11, 1916. Marion Savage died just thirty hours later.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
  • Bibliography
  • Related Resources

El-Hai, Jack. "The King of Sport." Minnesota Monthly (July 2003): 40–43.

Martin, D.R. "The Most Wonderful Horse in the World." American Heritage 41, no. 5 (July/August 1990): 98–105.

Related Video

Dan Patch Video

Related Audio

MN90: The Greatest Minnesota Athlete to Run on Four Legs | Details

Related Images

Dan Patch driven by M.E. McHenry, his first trainer
Dan Patch driven by M.E. McHenry, his first trainer
Dan Patch and driver
Dan Patch and driver
Dan Patch and driver.
Dan Patch and driver.
Dan Patch loving cup from Memphis
Dan Patch loving cup from Memphis
Dan Patch with his private car (from train)
Dan Patch with his private car (from train)
Dan Patch leading in race
Dan Patch leading in race
M. W. Savage and Dan Patch
M. W. Savage and Dan Patch
Dan Patch racing at the Minnesota State Fair
Dan Patch racing at the Minnesota State Fair
Dan Patch's stable
Dan Patch's stable
Badge with image of Dan Patch
Badge with image of Dan Patch
Dan Patch loving cup from Kentucky
Dan Patch loving cup from Kentucky
Dan Patch with driver Harry Hersey
Dan Patch with driver Harry Hersey
Dan Patch
Dan Patch
Dan Patch tobacco tin
Dan Patch tobacco tin
To Remember Dan Patch, art original
To Remember Dan Patch, art original
Covered race track of Dan Patch
Covered race track of Dan Patch
Dan Patch money clip
Dan Patch money clip

Turning Point

In 1906, Dan Patch makes horse-racing history when he sets a new world record by pacing a mile in one minute and fifty-five seconds.

Chronology

1896
Dan Patch is born, bred to be a racehorse.
1902
Dan Patch is famous in horse-racing circles, and Minneapolis businessman Marion Savage buys him for $60,000 (about $1.2 million today).
1906
On September 8, Dan Patch sets a new world record by pacing a mile in one minute and fifty-five seconds. His record stands until 1938.
1916
Dan Patch dies on July 11, just thirty hours before his owner, Marion Savage.








  

Comments

THE GREAT DAN PATCH
As a resident of Savage, MN it is nice to see Dan Patch represented here. I suggest adding the following title to the "Related Resources" section:
Brady, Tim. The Great Dan Patch and the Remarkable Mr. Savage (Minneapolis: Nodin Press, 2006).

Our staff checked out this resource and it looks to be a good one. It's now part of the Related Resources list for this article. Thanks, Kurt.