top of page

Weird History: How a Dead Man Won the Race

This week's weird history lesson comes from a 1923 issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, when writer W.C. Vreeland covered a very unique horse race.

The Belmont Track opened in Elmont, New York at the start of the 20th century. It was a popular horse track that remained in continuous operation through the 1950s. But no one could have predicted what would happen on June 4, 1923, when a dead man crossed the finish line.

Frank Hayes was a stable hand riding as a jockey that day in 1923. The New York Times says he was paired with a horse named Sweet Kiss for the two-mile course. According to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Hayes lost 10 to 15 pounds to ride Sweet Kiss in the jumping race. He bundled up to help keep his weight down and that, combined with the heat, is believed to have put a strain on his heart.

During the race, Hayes had to push towards the end in order to remain in the lead. "This undue exertion in his weakened condition brought on a sudden attack of heart disease," wrote Vreeland. "Dr. John A. Voorhees, the track physician, who examined Hayes immediately after he fell, said that his death was instantaneous."

This race proved to be the first and last win for Hayes as a jockey. Vreeland reported that he was 35 years old at the time, but others claim Hayes was only 22.

CNN adds that the odds had been 20-1 with another horse favored to win. That means Sweet Kiss beat the odds while carrying a dead man across that finish line.

Well done, Sweet Kiss. Respect.

[Image Credit: Frank Hayes photo via Wikimedia Commons, 1916 horse race photo via Wikimedia Commons]

29 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page