No other thoroughbred won Horse of the Year honors five times like the acclaimed Kelso did. Every year from 1960 through 1964, Kelso had done enough against a succession of world-class challengers to be named Horse of the Year.
[cleeng_content id="924856719" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]One Horse of the Year award is admirable. But to be recognized against all comers for five straight years!
So long was Kelso’s career and so successful was it that Bohemia Stable and Mrs. Alluire duPont of Maryland’s Woodstock Farm made sure that he was accompanied for many years by his lifetime groom, Lawrence Fitzpatrick, and his personal exercise rider, Dick Jenkins.
When Kelso was sent to the 14 race tracks (along the East Coast and elsewhere) where he did his campaigning, he had Charlie Potatoes with him. Charlie Potatoes was a dog that calmed the sometimes headstrong gelding, and his presence was thought to be necessary to get the best effort from the thoroughbred.
After a few years of riding the crest of the handicap race listings, Kelso even had his own fan club. In New York state his backers would station themselves in easy-to-find places around the grandstand or apron and show their banners and placards that proclaimed their love and appreciation for the seemingly ageless champion.
The fan club called themselves the “Kelsolanders” and they called the dark brown gelding “King Kelly”.
When he began another racing season at age nine, Kelso was receiving so much fan mail at Woodstock Farm that his own mailbox was installed. And since Mrs. duPont had personally named him after a friend of hers, it seemed appropriate that she would often bring him chocolate sundaes to pleasure his sweet tooth.
Said Mrs. DuPont, “I help him celebrate his victories or lift his spirits after a defeat.”
There were a lot more wins than losses. There had to be or Kelso would not have been named Horse of the Year some five times.
After his first race at age nine, it was found that he had a hairline fracture in a sesamoid bone and Kelso was retired.
After he recovered, Mrs. duPont would take him fox hunting in her native Delaware or in Pennsylvania. Race tracks wanted him for special weekend public appearances.
In 1983, Belmont Park, the site of so many of his handicap wins, hosted Kelso, Forego and John Henry for appearances on the track. The banners and hand-held signs were hard to miss that afternoon. The attendance figure that Saturday was announced at 32,000. In a quirk of fate, Kelso died the next day.
From his few races at age two until the last effort at age nine, Kelly raced 63 times and had 39 wins and 12 seconds to earn $1,977,896.
His trainer from age three until he was retired was Carl Hanford. It was Hanford who presided over the career of the thoroughbred called by many “the most outstanding distance horse in modern racing history.”
One the jockeys who had the honor of riding Kelso was Hall of Famer Eddie Arcaro, who when questioned about the most talented thoroughbreds he ever rode, said “ I have never ridden a better horse than Kelso.”
Arcaro once told a racing official at Pimlico, “I’m going to tell you right here and now that the greatest horse I ever rode, without question, was Kelso. He could do anything. He could sprint, go two miles, run on an off track, fast tracks, inside, outside — anything.”
Carl Hanford was eventually inducted into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga. When making his brief acceptance speech, he was careful to note that, “I’m here because of one horse and one horse only. I had a few stakes horses before, but they didn’t compare with Kelso.”
When Kelso passed away, Mrs. duPont often said that she was never comfortable referring to herself as Kelso’s owner.
“How can anyone actually possess the courage and generosity of another living creature?” she once wrote. “What we were able to do for Kelso was nothing compared to what he did for us. He was born with a will to win that never for a second deserted him.
“Kelso’s story has a beginnng, but it has no end, for I know his name will remain ever green as long as there are horses and people who love them,” she said.
The mailbox at Woodstock Farm continued to receive fan letters long after Kelso had gone.
On his tombstone was etched words that told of the happiness he had brought to his fans and to racing in general. Inscribed was “Where he gallops, the earth sings.”
One well-versed writer penned the short but poignant thought: “Once upon a time, there was a horse named Kelso. But only once.”