By Noah Joseph
Although not an absolute rarity, dead-heats are very infrequent in horse racing. A dead-heat is a tie for a finishing position in a race involving two or more horses. As mentioned before, dead-heats are sparse, but a dead-heat involving horses that have the same connections is an almost impossible occurrence. But in 2014, that seemingly unimaginable event happened at Canterbury Park between Grand Full Moon and Native American in the Shakopee Juvenile. And this is the story of how it happened.
Grand Full Moon and Native American were both trained by Robertino Diodoro and owned by Mercedes Stables. Mercedes Stables was founded by Ernest Moody, an inventor of several video game poker machines. Subsequently, the silks of Mercedes Stables had playing cards on them, the four suits of aces to be specific. In addition to owning both Grand Full Moon and Native American, Mercedes Stables also bred them both. Grand Full Moon was a gelding by Malibu Moon out of French Grand, while Native American was by Indian Charlie out of Dharma Girl. Both horses’ careers got off to completely different starts, as Native American won her debut by almost 5 lengths and looked like a potential superstar in the making. Grand Full Moon on the other hand, had a somewhat tumultuous beginning. In his first scheduled race, he acted up badly prior to the start and had to be scratched. When he went back to the track to officially make his debut, he finished 2nd as the favorite. But when he finally broke his maiden, he did it in style, winning by 6 lengths. Having two talented horses with the same connections was definitely a good problem to have, as both Grand Full Moon and Native American both displayed promising potential. But who was the better horse? After all, they had never raced against each other. They would eventually get the chance to do so.
On September 13th, 2014, Canterbury Park held its biggest race of the year for two-year-olds, the Shakopee Juvenile. It was being run for the first time on dirt and also for the first time on closing day. The race attracted a field of 10 top quality 2-year-olds. In addition to Grand Full Moon and Native American, the field also included the classy and undefeated filly Hero On Saturday, the Illinois bred invader Chicago Son, and future Canterbury Horse Of The Year, Majestic Pride.
Native American broke from post position 1 while Grand Full Moon broke from post position 10, the duo bookending the field in the six furlong contest. When the gates opened, Native American was rushed up from the inside under Jorge Carreno to grab the lead and set the pace while Grand Full Moon tracked his stablemate from the outside with Geovanni Franco aboard. Around the turn, Native American still led, but her stablemate was not too far behind, and when the field turned for home, Grand Full Moon launched his assault. Native American still led down the stretch, but Grand Full Moon was gaining on her with every stride. The two of them ended up side by side and hit the wire together in a photo finish. Who won? It would take a few minutes for the stewards to decipher the photo, which showed that both Grand Full Moon and Native American got their noses down on the wire at the same time. A dead-heat was announced, and the crowd was shocked. Since both horses had the same owner and trainer, instead of having the horses go into the winners’ circle one at a time, they both went in together. It was the first, and to date, the only dead-heat in a stakes race in the Canterbury Park era. It was a great moment for both horses, but where did they go from there?
The careers of both Grand Full Moon and Native American went in completely different directions following their dead-heat. Native American only raced three more times in her career, but she won all three more races, twice at Canterbury. She was retired to be a broodmare, where she sold for $400,000 in 2016 and $145,000 in 2020. She’s had three foals go on to race, with one winner. Grand Full Moon on the other hand went west to California, where he ran 3rd in a stakes race at Santa Anita, but after that, he had difficulty winning races, winning just once more in Arizona. Eventually he went east to Pennsylvania, where he became a claimer, winning for the final time in 2016 and ran for the final time in 2017. Yet for however different they were, at least for one day in September 2014, the legacies of both Grand Full Moon and Native American were forever etched in Canterbury history in a moment that will most likely never be repeated.