“BEFORE SEABISCUIT THERE WAS DAN PATCH…
At a time when champion horses were household names, a workhorse from an ordinary farm became an undefeated legend. In Crazy Good, Charles Leerhsen brings to life an all-but-forgotten hero of a bygone era.”
A hundred years ago, the most famous athlete in America was a horse. Born crippled and unable to stand, Dan Patch was nearly euthanized. For a while, he pulled the grocer’s wagon in Oxford, Indiana. But when he was entered in a race at the county fair, he won — and he kept on winning. America loved Dan Patch, who seemed to understand that he was a superstar: he acknowledged applause with a nod of his majestic head and stopped as if to pose when he saw a camera. He became the first celebrity sports endorser; his name appeared on breakfast cereals, washing machines, cigars, razors, and sleds. At a time when the highest-paid baseball player, Ty Cobb, was making $12,000 a year, Dan Patch was earning over a million dollars.
Even then horse racing attracted hustlers and cheats. Drivers and owners bet heavily on races, which were often fixed; horses were drugged with whiskey or cocaine. Although Dan never lost a race, some of his races were rigged so that large sums could change hands. Dan’s original owner was intimidated into selling him, and America’s favorite horse spent the second half of his career touring in a plush private railroad car and putting on speed shows for crowds that sometimes exceeded 100,000. But the automobile cooled America’s romance with the horse, and by the time he died in 1916, Dan was all but forgotten. His last owner buried him in an unmarked grave. In Crazy Good, Charles Leerhsen brings back to life this fascinating story of triumph and treachery in small-town America and big-city racetracks.
“One of the many satisfactions of Crazy Good is that it goes farther than Seabiscuit in explaining how a horse could be so feted, then so forgotten.”
“Thoroughly entertaining…Has moments of sweetness and triumph that only a sports story can provide.”
“A terrific look at a legendary if now forgotten equine superstar. Leerhsen does for early 20th Century American harness racing what Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit did for Depression-era Thoroughbred racing.”
“Leerhsen vividly recounts Dan-mania and digs up dirt on the colorful gamblers and shady horse handlers of the 1900s. In rescuing Dan from the mists of history, he also draws a wry, moving account of America’s first epidemic of sports fever.”