On June 4, 1923 Frank Hayes, riding horse ‘Sweet Kiss’, competed in the third leg of the Triple Crown, the prestigious Belmont Stakes. This two-mile race with jump fences and water trenches was only the second horse race in which Hayes had participated; He was not a professional jockey, but a horse trainer and stableman. To compensate for his lack of experience, Hayes had trained incredibly hard. He was given 20-1 odds of winning and faced fierce competition. But Frank Hayes managed to defy the odds and win the Belmont Stakes by a head. His win is made all the more impressive when you take into account the fact that Frank Hayes was dead before he crossed the finish line. Spectators noticed approximately halfway through the race that Hayes was slumped over in his saddle in a seemingly relaxed position with only one hand lightly gripping the reins. Some assumed he was adjusting a saddle strap, others believed he was becoming cocky over his lead in the race and showboating by appearing so relaxed. However, once he crossed the finish line and a group approached to congratulate him, Hayes’s body fell off Sweet Kiss. It was determined Frank Hayes died of heart failure, most likely caused by a mixture of extreme training, significant weight loss and the excitement of his imminent win. Considering the circumstances, Belmont’s Jockey Club opted to waive post-race formalities and award Frank Hayes as the official winner of the 1923 Belmont Stakes. It was the first, and thus far only time in history that a sporting competition has been won by a dead person.
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