Frank Hayes, stableman and trainer by trade, and maiden racer Sweet Kiss, hold a bizarre distinction in racing history. The pair competed in only one race, and though they won, it was what happened afterwards that puts them in the record books.

7-year-old Sweet Kiss was not well thought-of by her owners. Frank Hayes, who had cared for her, was convinced that she could win a race. On June 4, 1923, he was given his wish, when he and Sweet Kiss lined up for a 2-mile, 12-jump race at Belmont Park. Rated at 20-1 odds they were not expected to do anything special.

Surprisingly, the hard-working filly and her makeshift jockey, riding in just his second career race, won by a head. When the overjoyed owner and trainer approached to lead her to the winner’s circle, they made a shocking discovery: Frank Hayes was dead in the saddle.

A heart attack had killed Hayes sometime during the latter part of the race. It was observed that Sweet Kiss swerved slightly while approaching the final jump, and many surmised that her swerve had been caused by Hayes slumping forward in the saddle. Since he had stayed on her back the entire race, Sweet Kiss was declared the winner, making Hayes the first (and so far, only) jockey to have won a race after death. He is also the only known jockey to have an undefeated record. Hayes was buried in his racing silks three days later.

Sweet Kiss, meanwhile, was never raced again. Though she was a proven winner, no other jockey would dare to ride her. She was thereafter nicknamed “Sweet Kiss of Death”.


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