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'The Great Dan Patch' Turns 70

Published: November 8, 2019 10:10 am ET

Last Comment: November 9, 2019 1:52 am ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Movies involving horse racing aren't all that common, and those devoted to Standardbreds and harness racing are rarer still. For one horse to have a full-length feature devoted to his life story is no small feat.

Then again, Dan Patch was no ordinary horse.

Easily the most famous pacer of the early 1900s, Dan Patch won all 73 races he contested and attracted large crowds of fans at his appearances in both the U.S. and Canada. He set records in races and time trials throughout the U.S., earning the titles ‘The greatest harness horse in the history of the two-wheeled sulky’ and ‘World Champion Harness Horse.’ In the fall of 1906, Dan Patch paced a time-trial mile in 1:55 ¼ in Lexington, an almost unbelievable record that would stand for several decades.

On this day 70 years ago -- November 8, 1949 -- United Artists released The Great Dan Patch, a movie that was part biography and documentary with some fictional and elements added, in true Hollywood fashion.


Gail Russell and John Hoyt (center) in The Great Dan Patch (1949)

One of the most famous Standardbreds ever, Dan Patch -- a horse so fast he had only his own records to race against toward the end of his career -- is the subject of this film biography. Dennis O'Keefe plays the farm-raised chemist-cum-trainer who drives Dan to his greatest victories, losing his patrician wife (Ruth Warrick) along the way, but falling in love with another woman who loves harness racing as much as he does (Gail Russell). Dan Patch was a sports superstar with extensive endorsements (including washing machines and cigars).

The full 94-minute movie is available below.

November 9, 2019 - 1:52 amI've never seen this before ,

Jim Brown SAID...

I've never seen this before , but I can tell you when it got to the part where the trainer was hooking up Dan Patch to go see the owner, it made me cry.

November 8, 2019 - 10:49 pmSurprisingly, I have never

Surprisingly, I have never seen this.


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