Jump to: navigation, search

Kelso (horse)

Sire Your Host
Dam Maid of Flight
Grandsire Alibhai
Damsire Count Fleet
Gender Gelding
Foaled 1957
Country United States
Color Dark Bay
Breeder Bohemia Stable
Owner Bohemia Stable (Racing silks: Grey, yellow disc, collar, cuffs and cap)
Trainer Dr. John Lee
Carl Hanford
Record 63:39–12–2
Earnings $1,977,896
Kelso is a thoroughbred racehorse out of Maid of Flight by Your Host. He was born around 1957 in the United States, and was bred by Bohemia Stable.
Major wins
Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (1960)
Jockey Club Gold Cup
(1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964)
Suburban Handicap (1961, 1963)
Woodward Stakes (1961, 1962, 1963)
Whitney Stakes (1961, 1963, 1965)
Aqueduct Handicap (1963, 1964)
Gulfstream Park Handicap (1963)
John B. Campbell Handicap (1963)
Nassau County Handicap (1963)
Outstanding U.S. 3-Year-Old Male Horse (1960)
3rd New York Handicap Triple Crown (1961)
U.S. Champion Older Male Horse (1961–1964)
U.S. Horse of the Year (5 times, 1960–1964)
U.S. Racing Hall of Hame (1967)
Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame (1977)
#4 - Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century
Kelso Stakes at Belmont Park
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)

Kelso (April 4, 1957 – October 16, 1983) was an American thoroughbred race horse and is considered to be among the best racehorses of the Twentieth century. In the list of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century by The Blood-Horse magazine, Kelso ranks 4th, behind only Man o' War (1st), Secretariat (2nd), and Citation (3rd).


Early career

Kelso did not start out in glory. His breeding was less than stellar. Born at Claiborne Farm near Paris, Kentucky, Kelso was sired by a well-known, yet unproven stallion, Your Host. He was out of the dam Maid of Flight, with no reputation at all, although her sire was Count Fleet and her grandsire was Man o' War. Kelso was her first foal, a bit scrawny, a bit runty, and quite the handful. Before he ever set hoof on a track, owner Allaire du Pont had him gelded in the hopes of calming him down. By all reports, it did not work. Kelso was never a "nice" horse. In any case, regardless of his dam and sire, he was a maternal grandson of U.S. Triple Crown champion Count Fleet, who is ranked at number 5 by Blood-Horse.

Trained by Dr. John Lee and racing for Ms. du Pont's nom de course, the Bohemia Stables, Kelso made his two-year-old debut on September 4, 1959 at Atlantic City Race Course, at that time one of the country's premier tracks. Ridden by John Block, Kelso's first race was an ordinary maiden event...which he won. Even so, his odds weren't much when he made his second start ten days later and came in second. He was the favorite in his third race, which came rapidly on the heels of his first two, and again he came in second. That was the entirety of his first year of racing.

Rt. Rev. Arthur Raymond McKinstry was known as Kelso's chaplain. In talking to reporters, McKinstry said, "On the occasion of President [Johnson] and Mrs. Johnson's 30th wedding anniversary, the White House reporters asked me if I had any other claim to fame. I thought a little while and then had to confess to them that among my friends in Wilmington I am casually spoken of as the private chaplain for that great racehorse Kelso. Taken aback, one reporter turned and asked me, 'Do you mean to say that you direct heavenly words to God on behalf of a racehorse?" 'I don't have to,' I replied. 'Let's say I just sit there with my fingers crossed and hope a little.'"[1]

Championship Victories

Kelso's third year started after the Triple Crown[1] races of 1960 had come and gone. Dr. John Lee had returned to his veterinary practice. Kelso's new trainer was Carl Hanford (inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2006), who handled him for the remainder of his career. Willie Shoemaker took over as his jockey for a short time, followed by Eddie Arcaro, who rode him from mid 1960 to near the end of 1961. Arcaro retired in November 1961. In 1962, Ismael Valenzuela became Kelso's principal rider for more than three years.

Kelso's first start and first win for Hanford was at Monmouth Park. Hanford said, "He was an extremely determined horse. If he saw a horse in front, he wanted to get to him. You could take him back or send him to the front. He was an extremely sound horse who was light on his feet with incredible balance. Kelso could wheel on a dime, spinning round in a circle and never letting his feet touch each other." After the Monmouth race, he won eight times in nine starts: a mile event at Aqueduct Racetrack in a record for a three-year-old at that distance, the Choice Stakes, the Jerome Handicap, the Discovery Handicap, the Lawrence Realization Stakes, the Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, this last race against older horses. In the Lawrence Realization Stakes, he equaled Man 0 'War's time of 2.40 & four/fifths for a mile and five/eights.

1960 was the first year Kelso was voted three-year-old Champion Male and the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

In 1961, he won seven of nine starts. That year, he was voted Champion Older Horse and again Horse of the Year.

Career Highlights:

  • Champion:
    • 1960 Champion 3-yr-old Male, Horse of the Year
    • 1961 Champion Handicap Male, Horse of the Year
    • 1962 Champion Handicap Male, Horse of the Year
    • 1963 Champion Handicap Male, Horse of the Year
    • 1964 Champion Handicap Male, Horse of the Year
    • Only 5-time Horse of the Year in history
  • Won 5 consecutive editions of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the most consecutive wins of a major stakes by any horse in history.
  • Won 8 of 9 races (7 stakes) in 1960.
  • Won 8 consecutive races (last 6 of 1960 & first 2 of 1961).
  • Carried 130 pounds on 24 occasions, winning 13, placing in 5, and finishing third once.
  • Won 39 of 63 starts (62%).
  • Finished in the money in 53 of 63 starts (84%).
  • Won The Stymie Handicap at the age of 5 in 1962, and also at the age of 8 in 1965.

In a simulated race featuring the top champions of American racing, Kelso beat Man O' War by a half-length.

A career that lasted

Unlike many of today's top racehorses, Kelso did not ignite racing in his second and third year only to disappear to a stud farm. This great gelding[2] competed for eight seasons, from 1959 to 1966. As his career raced on, so did his popularity. Huge crowds flocked to see him. Kelso competed on fourteen tracks, won in six states, smashed any amount of records, won an unprecedented number of awards, and eventually became as beloved a horse as any who ever lived.


In 1965, during a workout Kelso suffered a hairline fracture of the inside sesamoid of his right hind foot. Though he had planned for another year's racing, Hanford retired him at the age of nine. Kelso left the track as racing's all-time leading money winner with lifetime earnings of $1,977,896. This earnings record held for 14 years until Kelso was surpassed by Affirmed in 1979.

Of Kelso's sixty three starts, he won thirty nine, placed twelve times, and had two shows. He was out of the money only ten times.

Accepting his Hall of Fame award in August 2006, Carl Hanford said, "I am here today because of one horse and one horse only. Although I've had a few stakes horses before, they didn't compare with Kelso. There is an old saying on the racetrack that 'a good horse is dangerous in anybody's hands.' How true that is. Of all the top trainers in the past that have had this honor, I may be a little bit prejudiced, but I don't think any one of them had their hands on a horse like Kelso."

As a gelding, Kelso could not be retired to stud. Instead, he went on to a second career as a hunter and a show jumper. In 1967, he was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Kelso died on October 16, 1983. He is buried in the equine cemetery at Allaire du Pont's Woodstock Farm in Chesapeake City, Maryland.[2]

Further reading

  • Thoroughbred Champions Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century (2005) The Blood Horse ISBN 1-58150-024-6

See also


  1. ^ - A male horse who has been castrated for any number of reasons. In Kelso's case, it was cantankerousness.
  1. ^ That year, Venetian Way won the Kentucky Derby, Bally Ache won the Preakness, and Celtic Ash won the Belmont Stakes.


External links


Premier Equine Classifieds


Subscribe to our newsletter and keep abreast of the latest news, articles and information delivered directly to your inbox.

Did You Know?

Modern horse breeds developed in response to a need for "form to function", the necessity to develop certain physical characteristics in order to perform a certain type of work... More...

The Gypsy Cob was originally bred to be a wagon horse and pulled wagons or caravans known as Vardos; a type of covered wagon that people lived in... More...

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Arabian horse bloodline dates back 4,500 years. Throughout history, Arabian horses spread around the world by both war and trade.... More...

That the term "Sporthorse" is a term used to describe a type of horse rather than any particular breed... More...