Dan Patch

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Winning Nomination

EVERYONE knows about Dan Patch Avenue at the State Fair, but how many folks know he was a RACEHORSE, the subject of a movie, and that the city of Savage was named after his owner? Dan Patch must be the most influential horse in Minnesota history!
~Maggie Knoke, Minneapolis, MN

Runner-up Nominations

Dan Patch, I think, helped make the Minnesota State Fair a truly communal, family affair.
~Marie Magnuson, Roseville, MN

Still catching our hearts 100 years later, Dan Patch is the best of true stories. He is a pure inspiration. I get chills when I read that his training track at Savage, Minnesota, can be seen from space.
~Rosemary Diedrich, Garfield, MN

He was an advertising symbol before his time, a household word, and soon to be the topic of two books--one by Nodin Press and the other by S&S.
~Janet Williams, Savage, MN

His horse-racing record stood for years. He made Minnesota famous.
~Madison Overmoen, Shoreview, MN

He was a race horse who garnered much publicity and celebrity status in harness racing.
~Matt Toohey, Carver, MN




A pacing horse that never lost a race

Sired by a champion pacer, 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.

Resource Links

Dan Patch - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dan Patch Historical Society

Share Your Personal Stories

My father Harold Savage, Marion W. Savage's son, loved Dan Patch and he worked very hard to keep the horse's memory alive by participating in Dan Patch Days parades by being the Grand Marshal and riding on a sulky behind a horse.
~Mary Phyllis Savage Francis Colwell
My mother, said the family grew up going to Dan Patch Days parades. But they didn't even know Dan Patch Days was still celebrated in Savage until Lind called inviting them to the parade. "We'd heard the celebration had stopped many years ago because of rowdy crowds and didn't know it had been resurrected into what it is today."
~Susan Colwell


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