THE BEST THERE EVER WAS

DAN PATCH AND THE DAWN OF THE AMERICAN CENTURY
A book by
SHARON B. SMITH

Three owners and three trainer/drivers helped create the legend of Dan Patch. One of them, owner and operator of several illegal Manhattan casinos, may have helped create another legend as well.

THEY WERE ALONG FOR THE GLORIOUS RIDE

DAN PATCH’S PEOPLE

1896-1903

1903

1903-1916

Daniel Messner (on the left) bred Dan Patch from his buggy mare and put him into the hands of his elderly relative John Wattles (on the right) for training and early racing. Dan proved too much for either of them, and, after just one season of racing, the horse left little Oxford, Indiana, for the big time of Grand Circuit racing.


Patent medicine entrepreneur Marion Willis Savage (on the left)  paid Manley Sturges $60,000 for Dan Patch late in 1903 and turned him into a marketing machine. Harry Hersey (on the right) trained and drove Dan Patch to several world’s records, including a mile time that wasn’t matched for decades.

Casino operator Manley E. Sturges (on the left) paid $20,000 for Dan Patch in early 1903, retaining his friend Myron McHenry (on the right) as trainer and driver. Sturges’ early life neatly matched that of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s title character in The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald and Sturges had at least two mutual acquaintances and may have met. Was Sturges a model for Jay Gatsby? There is intriguing evidence presented in The Best There Ever Was: Dan Patch and the Dawn of the American Century.