January 12, 2024 | Sarah Ng

Frank Hayes, The Doomed Jockey

Frank Hayes went down in history for having one of the most bizarre deaths imaginable.

He Made History

As a stableman and trainer, Frank Hayes wasn’t usually a jockey. However, on the fateful day of June 4, 1923, he competed in a steeplechase at Belmont Park racetrack. Though this wasn’t Hayes’ usual profession, he managed to place first. Unfortunately, when the officials went to meet and congratulate him, they made a disturbing discovery: Hayes was dead.


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A Shocking Tragedy

Turns out, while racing his horse Sweet Kiss, Frank Hayes had suffered a fatal heart attack. His body stayed seated, while Sweet Kiss continued to victory. But the tragedy doesn’t end there.

Turns out, Hayes’ demise may have been the result of sudden weight loss. In the attempt to satisfy the weight requirements for the race, he’d dropped from 142 pounds to 130 pounds too quickly, which likely put a strain on his heart.

Portrait of Frank HayesUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Two Sad Fates

Three days after his passing, Frank Hayes went to his final resting place, wearing his racing silks. His trusty steed, on the other hand, never took part in another competition. Instead, Sweet Kiss earned a dark nickname that she’d never be able to shake: “Sweet Kiss of Death.”

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