Frank Hayes

Winning usually comes with a lot of pomp and circumstance, but not so much for Frank Hayes who won a horse race despite being dead.

On June 4, 1923, the 35-year-old jockey was competing in a steeplechase at New York’s Belmont Park. A horse trainer and long-time stableman, Hayes had never won a race before and no one expected him to take the first spot that day while riding a 20-1 outsider named Sweet Kiss, a horse owned by Miss A.M. Frayling.

The odds didn’t seem to bother Hayes. What did seem to bother him was his heart.

Sometime during the race, the Hayes suffered a heart attack and died instantly. However, he didn’t fall off of his horse. In fact, he remained in the saddle for the rest of the race and actually crossed the finish line first, winning by a head.

Despite the fact that he had died at some point while still on the track, no one was aware that anything had gone wrong until Miss Frayling and the officials went to congratulate Hayes, only to find out he was no longer alive.

frank hayes

Sweet Kiss of Death

While the unfortunate incident could have been caused by a number of conditions, various theories floated around regarding the reason for the jockey’s heart attack, one which figured that the mere excitement of the race may have been too much for Hayes to handle and another which suggested that the rider’s recent weight loss (dropping from 142 pounds to 130 pounds in a very short time in order to qualify for the race) had contributed to the strain on his heart.

Despite being a winner, the horse Hayes rode never raced again and Sweet Kiss was nicknamed “Sweet Kiss of Death” for the rest of her life.

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By Desirée O, contributor for Ripleys.com