He likely didn't intend to set this world record in horse racing, but there was no way Frank Hayes could have known he would be the first jockey to cross the finish line with this ill-fated claim to fame.
Nestled in Elmont, New York, just outside of New York City limits, the Belmont Park race track was a popular spot for equestrian enthusiasts and gamblers alike. It first opened on May 4, 1905 where it held it's first Spring meet.
It is home of the Belmont Stakes and the third leg of the Triple Crown. Many know it more commonly as the "Test of the Champion." The original park was unprecedented in its size for the time and featured an extension of a Long Island Rail Road from Queens Village station to the south side of the property.
On June 4, 1923, jockeys and their horses were competing in a Steeplechase where horse and rider must make jumps over fences and ditches on a two-mile course.
That fateful day, Frank Hayes saddled up his horse, Sweet Kiss, and prepared for the biggest race of his life. Little did he know it would be the last one he ever rode...
It was only Hayes' second time wearing racing silks and not many people considered him a contender for the win. But, this race would make Hayes world famous and a quick change of rules ensured that he would hold onto his victory.
Throughout the incredibly close race, Hayes and Sweet Kiss were neck and neck with the favorite to win, J.S. Cosden and his horse, Gimme.
Coming around the last bend, Sweet Kiss nearly crashed into Gimme, but he was able to right himself with time to pull ahead by a length and a half.
The crowd cheered for Hayes who had won his first race, but the excitement quickly died down when spectators watched in horror as Hayes dropped limply to the ground. Doctors determined that Hayes had actually died during the race, just before Sweet Kiss crossed the finish line.
Somehow, in spite of being dead, Frank Hayes managed to remain in the saddle long enough to win in a 20-1 long shot. Incredibly, Sweet Kiss managed to jump the final fence and cross the finish line in first place with his dead rider strapped onto his back.
An official ruling declared that Hayes had died of heart disease and the New York Times suggested that the jockey's heart had given out from the severe training he underwent to lose weight for the race.
In light of the incredible circumstances, Belmont's Jockey Club waived the rules and made Hayes' win official.
Frank Hayes is the only jockey to win a race while dead and the only athlete in sports history to win a competition while deceased.