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First Posted Aug 4, 2010
Aug 4, 2010

Dan Patch Harness Horse

by Debora Johnson

All About Harness Racing and Sulkies

Dan Patch, Phar Lap and Seabiscuit can be said in the same breath. All are stars! It has been more than 100 years since Dan Patch was born in Oxford, Indiana. He is the fastest pacer in history. Daniel Messner, Jr, a harness racing enthusiast, was his owner. Mr. Messner had a mare, Zelica; a Standardbred. He had Zelica bred to Joe Patchen in Illinois. Joe Patches was, at that time, was one of the fastest pacers of record. At Thistle Ridge Stock Farms, Dan Patch had his beginnings. It was in the year 1895. It is a sad note to know that Zelica met with a racing accident--a badly torn tendon--that ended her racing career.

Messner sold Dan Patch before Dan Patch achieved his greatest fame. At three years of age, Dan Patch raced at the local fairgrounds circuit and then graduated to the coutnry-wide grand circuit. He was sold to M.E. Strugis for $20,000. Sturgis was a sports enthusiast living in Buffalo, New York. Messner's name Dan, along with the sire's name, Joe Patches, were carried into the winner's circle and fame.

Dan Patch broke his sire's record for a one mile pace in 2:01-1/4 with a trip of 1:59-3/4. Then the world record for one mile, 1:59-1/4 was shattered by Dan Patch. In short, he became unbeatable. The owners of other racing pacers bagan to scratch their pacers if it was learned that DAn Patch was scheduled to run. No one wanted to compete with him. The crowds wanted to see Dan Patch run but under these circumstances there were no other horses to run against. Ultimately Dan Patch was able to run alone against a stop watch. He continued to beat his own records. The crowds loved it!

In 1902, as Dan Patch's fame grew, M.W. Savage purchased him for $60,000. Savage was wealthy and well connected and it was under Savage's ownership that Dan Patch became a "household name." Between 1902 and 1906 Dan Patch hit the grand circuit cities and raced at every available opportunity. DAn Patch even ran against running horses pulling Standardbred carts! He was fiercely promoted. He continued to lower his pacing mile time: 1:59-3/4 to 1:59 flat, to 1:58 flat, to 1:57-1/4, to 1:56 flat. He brought in millions of dollars in ticket sales and stud fees. It is estimated that Dan Patch earned as much as $3,000,000 for his owner, Savage. In so doing Dan Patch became a national celebrity and won his well deserved place in history.

At age eleven Dan Patch ran his last race. Once again, he ran it against running horses pulling carts. The race was run in Minneapolis to the delight of cheering crowds. At age eleven he managed to beat his own world record mile pace on the flat 1:56, to 1:55 flat. The record was unofficial because runners were allowed in the race. He went undefeated in 56 competitive races. Dan Patch was retired in 1909 and had nine world records. He died on July 11, 1916. Curiously his owner, Savage, died the next day, as well.

For More Information:
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