Today's flashback in history recalls the 1994 rivalry between Honest Onyx and Exclusive Gold. Robert Ripley, creator of Ripley's Believe It or Not, would have loved this one.
Imagine two thoroughbreds so evenly matched that after running their eyeballs out for seven furlongs the photo finish camera was unable to determine who reached the finish line first, not once, but twice.
A dead-heat occurs when two or more horses reach the finish line simultaneously. In a typical race meet you can probably expect a dead-heat or two, but never more than a handful. Even modern-age technology cannot always help to determine the outcome of a race.
It is rare when more than one horse dead-heats and stupid-beyond-belief rare that the same two horses could finish a race at the exact same time on two separate occasions.
Dead-heat facts, who knew?
June 10, 1944 - A triple dead-heat between Brownie, Bossuet and Wait A Bit took place in the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack; this was the first dead-heat in a stakes race.
October 3, 1953 - The first triple dead-heat in harness racing occurred when Patchover, Payne Hall and Penny Maid dead-heated for the win at Freehold Raceway.
April 8, 2006 - During an 11-race program at Aqueduct Racetrack that included the Wood Memorial Stakes, dead-heats for each of the "money" positions (Win, Place and Show) occurred in three separate races. Saint Anddan and Criminal Mind dead-heated for Place in race 5; Naragansett and Emotrin for Show in Race 6; and Karakorum Tuxedo and Megatrend for Win in race 10.
Honest Onyx, a stakes-placed bay horse, was the product of some relatively unremarkable breeding, but won an impressive $81,100 as a 2-year-old while racing at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. His 3-year-old season saw him race only once and then it was on to the lower level claiming ranks at Assiniboia Downs, a very long way from bright lights of the big tracks on the U.S. west coast.
Exclusive Gold had flashier breeding -- with great grand sires Raise a Native and Nijinsky ll forming an important part of his pedigree. As luck would have it however, the chestnut gelding ran all but three of his lifetime races at the Downs, and his best year saw him earn a modest $17,000.
Regardless of their respective records, these two combatants were destined for the history books by virtue of their 1994 duals at Assiniboia Downs.
On July 29, 1994 Honest Onyx and Exclusive Gold went head-to-head for the first time. Seven furlongs later when the pair hit the wire, officials, even with the aid of the finish-line camera, were unable to determine who hit the wire first -- a dead-heat for the Win!
On August 13, 1994, the two $2,500 claimers went to war again going seven furlongs. This time neither won the race, but in finishing second officials ruled that the pair had tied again - a dead-heat for the Place position!
Go figure. The same two horses, going the same distance, at the same racetrack, carrying the same weight and ridden by the same jocks, for the same connections, dead-heating for a second time in consecutive starts!
But they weren't done yet!
In the first week of September 1994, the rivalry continued, albeit in separate races. Honest Onyx ran on September 3 and Exclusive Gold on September 4, both going a mile and each carrying 122 pounds. Both won their races in the identical time of 1:41:20. The third time where they effectively dead-heated.
But there was more!
On September 16, 1994 the closely matched rivals faced each other again, with Exclusive Gold edging Honest Onyx by a length and change. On October 10 in their final rematch, Honest Onyx got his revenge, besting Exclusive Gold by a length and change.
And that my friends, is the tale of Honest Onyx and Exclusive Gold, a rivalry for the record books!
Postscript: In March 2014, Old Feeling and Kaputski finished in a dead-heat for Win in the Ladies in Racing Magazine Class 1 Handicap in Gold Coast, Australia. Two weeks later the two met again in the Ronald McDonald House Charity Class 2 Handicap, and officials determined that the pair finished in a dead-heat for sixth place! We have yet to determine whether the aforementioned rivals were related to Honest Onyx and Exclusive Gold.
But they're bound to have a few similar names in their pedigrees. And all four had something in common.
The will to win.