Frank Hayes, a trainer and one time jockey, has gone down in history as being the only dead man to win a horse race. His first and only win as a jockey too I might add. It wasn’t just any horse race either, it was a steeplechase, the type of horse race that has jumps throughout it. So how is it that Frank Hayes, a dead man, could possibly win a horse race?
The unconventional win took place on June 4, 1923, at Belmont Park in New York State. Frank Hayes was a 35 year old horse trainer, stableman and part time jockey who had never had a win in his life riding horses in races. This is a record that he technically kept, as he was not alive at the finishing post.
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In an effort to participate in the race, Hayes lost 12 pounds in a very short time, which may have contributed to his death. In the race he was riding the 20 to 1 outsider, Sweet Kiss. At some point in the race, most believe it may have been mid way through, Hayes and Sweet Kiss hit the lead. The excitement of being in front for the first time in his career, coupled with the dramatic weight loss may have caused him to have a heart attack half way through the race. His body remained in the saddle after the fatal heart attack, but instead of calling the race off, it continued on to the very end, with Hayes riding Sweet Kiss to victory, winning by a head.
Unknown to all and sundry, by the time all of the horses had crossed the finish post Hayes was long dead. It was only discovered that he was now a corpse when race officials came to congratulate him on his victory. The usual post race regulations of weighing in were waived, and Frank Hayes was buried in his race colors three days later. Frank Hayes has gone down in history as the only dead man to win a horse race.
Sweet Kiss never raced again following the amazing victory. She was retired and supposedly given the name, Sweet Kiss of Death, which she bore for the remainder of her natural life.