Frank Hayes (jockey)

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Frank Hayes
Frank Hayes (jockey).jpg
Born1901 (1901)[1]
Died (aged 22)
Cause of deathHeart attack

Frank Hayes (1901 – June 4, 1923) was a jockey who, on June 4, 1923,[2] won a steeplechase despite suffering a fatal heart attack in the later part of the race[3] at Belmont Park racetrack in Elmont, New York, US.


The twenty-two-year-old[4] Hayes had never won a race before[5] and in fact by profession was not actually a jockey but a horse trainer and longtime stableman.[6][7] The horse, a 20–1 outsider called Sweet Kiss, was owned by Miss A. M. Frayling.[3] Hayes apparently died somewhere in the latter part of the race, but his body remained in the saddle throughout. Sweet Kiss eventually crossed the finish line, winning by a head with Hayes technically still atop her back, making him the first, and thus far only, jockey known to have won a race after death.[8]


Hayes' death was not discovered until Miss Frayling and race officials came to congratulate him shortly after the race. It was suggested that the fatal heart attack may have been brought on by Hayes' extreme efforts to meet the weight requirements,[9] possibly followed by the excitement of riding to the front of the pack.[3] The newspaper reported he had slimmed down from 142 pounds to 130 pounds in a very short time.[10]

After the discovery of Hayes' death, all further post-race formalities were waived by the Jockey Club, the result being declared official without the customary weighing in.[11] Hayes, dressed in his colorful racing silks, was buried three days later[5] at Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.[12] The horse never raced again. It was claimed that Sweet Kiss was nicknamed "Sweet Kiss of Death" for the rest of her life.[13]


  1. ^ "Fourteenth Census of the United States: 1920—Population". Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census.
  2. ^ "Frank Hayes, The Only Dead Man to Win a Horse Race". Neatorama. October 29, 2012. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "Jockey Dies as He Wins His First Race - Hayes Collapses Passing the Winning Post". The New York TImes. June 5, 1923. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  4. ^ "Bury Jockey Frank Hayes in Holy Cross Cemetery". The Standard Union. June 6, 1923. Retrieved January 11, 2021.
  5. ^ a b "The Only Dead Man in History to Win a Race at New York's Belmont Park". Curious History. Archived from the original on September 15, 2013.
  6. ^ "Things that make you go...hmmm. Message Board - Msg: 28940447". June 4, 1923. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  7. ^ Unusual Death #9: A Stellar Finish. "Unusual Death #9: A Stellar Finish". Diabolique Magazine. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  8. ^ Esteban. "Frank Hayes". 11 Tragic Cases Of Athletes With Bad Tickers. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  9. ^ Britton, Bianca (December 13, 2018). "Frank Hayes: The jockey who won a race despite being dead". CNN.
  10. ^ "Jockey Rides First Winner and Then Dies". The Auburn Citizen. Fulton History. June 5, 1923.
  11. ^ "Colin's Ghost: Thoroughbred Racing History » Jockey Dies in the Saddle, 1923". February 10, 2009. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  12. ^ The Standard Union
  13. ^ "12 Essential Facts About the Folks Who Race Horses". Neatorama. July 15, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2014.