Our Stories Resort Blog

Dig a little deeper into stories about our history, unique guest features, and what’s happening around the resort.


Peter the Great: a Legendary Horse With a Legacy at French Lick

Peter the Great

Our history with horses runs deep here at the resort, from the famous double decker horse and bicycle track popular in the 1800s, to the Kentucky Derby theme that greets you today when you step inside 1875: The Steakhouse.

Here’s another you might not know about: Let us introduce you to Peter the Great.

If you’ve been up to The Pete Dye Course at French Lick, maybe you’ve seen Peter’s statue but never realized how big he is in the horse world. The very definition of a stud, in fact.

Peter was one of the biggest money earners on the track during his time as a standardbred trotter. But the span of time beyond his racing career elevated him to legend status. Peter the Great sired nearly 550 standard track performers in the early 1900s, believed to be the double the number sired by any other racing stallion.

Busy guy, that Peter.

peter the great
In fact, a book dedicated to Peter the Great notes that “virtually all of the great trotters of the 20th century trace directly back to Peter the Great, as do those of today.” In 1916, Peter was purchased for $50,000 (more than $1.3 million today) by Stoughton Fletcher, who was part of a wealthy and prominent family from Indianapolis. And that’s where the horse’s connection to French Lick started.

Peter the Great lived until 1923 — news of his passing was reported by the New York Times — and his remains were buried at Fletcher’s estate in Indianapolis. A small stone monument was later erected at the burial site. When Fletcher declared bankruptcy in 1924 and was forced to unload his assets. The buyer of much of Fletcher’s property, including the horse stables, was Thomas D. Taggart.

Taggart, of course, was part of the family that had French Lick Springs Hotel booming during this era. His father (also named Thomas) owned the hotel at the time. The elder Thomas Taggart built a home for each of his children, and Thomas D.’s mansion was located on the hilltop at Mt. Airie. Then it was an isolated spot; now it’s home to our Pete Dye Course.  

The former Taggart family mansion is now the Mansion at The Pete Dye Course.

The former Taggart family mansion is now the Mansion at The Pete Dye Course.

Fast-forward to the 1960s, when new housing developments in Indy were going up on Fletcher’s former estate. The same land owner heading up those Indy developments had also purchased the former Taggart mansion on Mt. Airie. To preserve Peter the Great’s monument and remains, they were transferred to the Mt. Airie site in the mid-1960s.

front side of peter the great monument

The front and back side of Peter the Great's monument, first created around 1930 and relocated to Mt. Airie.
back side of the peter the great monument

The monument was briefly relocated down the hill to the West Baden Springs Hotel property. But in 2009 when The Pete Dye Course opened, the stone marker was returned to its rightful spot with the remains on Mt. Airie.

Next time you’re visiting — even if you’re not playing a round of golf at Pete Dye — make a point to stop at Mt. Airie where Peter the Great’s legacy lives on, amid some breathtaking views of the Hoosier countryside.

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