No sports figure of that sport-happy time in America's brief history garnered more ink in the press and more cash at the turnstile. Twice in his fabled career, Dan Patch drew crowds in excess of 100,000 fans at a reported one U.S. dollar per head. His name appeared on everything from cut-plug tobacco cans and cigars to washing machines and pool cues.
He traveled in a custom built railcar with his picture appearing on both sides and its interior, they say, was lined in red velvet. The Jersey Lilly, the famous Lillie Langtry, came to meet him. President Eisenhower remembered seeing him at the Kansas State Fair in 1904 and Harry Truman sent him a fan letter. He even had his own pet dog.
So dominating were his performances that often no horse would challenge him and he would pace against the clock. Dan Patch lost just two heats in his career and never, that is never, lost a race. Fourteen times he broke world speed records and his official record for one mile stands at 1:55-1/4.
At the Minnesota State Fair in 1906 he scorched the track in 1:55 flat, an unofficial record which stood for thirty-two years until matched by Billy Direct in 1938. It was a four horse race with two of the contenders staying close to Dan, but in the video of the race, both horses seem to have broken and appear to be galloping by the race's end. It was not until 1960, when Adios Butler paced a mile in 1:54:3, that Dan Patch's unofficial record was broken.
As popular as Standardbred racing had become, no horse approached the fame and popularity of Dan Patch. He had no peers. Every other horse raced in his shadow. They ran at country fairs and tracks in places that have long been forgotten. Their careers and lives were the definition of anonymity.
B. F. Wano was one such horse. Not much is known about him. Wano was a trotter (legs move on the diagonal: right front and left rear, etc.) and not a pacer. Like Dan Patch, Wano was a stallion and for that time big for the breed at 15.3 hands, or just over five feet in height at the withers and weighing about 1100 pounds. He was powerfully built, muscular and well proportioned, with a short back and very straight legs. Across his form lay a lustrous, rich brown coat. Most assuredly all comparisons with Dan Patch end there.