Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dead Jockey Declared Belmont Winner

California Chrome, by Barbara D. Livingston
Yesterday, the racehorse, California Chrome, made history!  After winning the Kentucky Derby several weeks ago, California Chrome returned to the track on Saturday, May 17th and won the Preakness Stakes!  This puts him in the running for the Triple Crown!  If Chrome can take first place in the Belmont Stakes on June 7th, he'll be only one of 12 horses EVER to be be named a Triple Crown winner, and the first to take the honor since 1978. 

But, as announced today, there may be a problem.  In both Kentucky and in Maryland, where the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes are held respectively, horses are allowed to wear nasal strips to help with breathing, with California Chrome did in both races.  However, New York, where the Belmont Stakes will be held, does not allow such devices.  Whether trainers and owners of California Chrome will get special permission to race the horse with the nasal strips, or choose to sit the race out remains unknown at this point.

So, while we all sit and wait to see what happens, I wanted to bring you a VERY interesting anecdote from the Belmont racetrack...the same track where the final leg of the Triple Crown will be held in June!

No idea why the date on this is February, lol.

On June 4, 1923 Frank Hayes was riding a 20-1 outsider named Sweet Kiss, owned by Miss A.M. Frayling.  Hayes wasn't a jockey.  Normally a trainer, Hayes had to undergo a rigorous regime to make weight requirements in hopes of gaining his first win in this new position.  But, it worked, and excitement was high as Sweet Kiss crossed the finish line ahead of all the other horses!

But after crossing the finish line, Frank, who was not described as a young man by any means, slumped forward and fell, just as Miss Frayling was walking over to congratulate him.  To the horror of all who witnessed it, Frank Hayes was dead in his saddle.

It is believed that Hayes passed away somewhere in the middle of the race of a heart attack brought on by the combined excitement of taking the lead and abuse he put his body through trying to make weight requirements. As an act of respect, the post-race weigh-in was suspended and Frank Hayes, despite his non-living status, was named the winning jockey. 

He was buried three days later in his colorful racing silks.  To date, he is the only jockey to win a race deceased.  As for the winning horse, Sweet Kiss became known as "Sweet Kiss of Death," for the rest of its life.  This year's Belmont Stakes will be held on the 91st anniversary of Hayes' burial at St. Agnes Cemetery in Syracuse, NY.  Will you be watching?

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