Kelso Kelso ranks fourth on The Blood-Horse magazine list of top 100 US Thoroughbred champions of the 20th century. His career was remarkable and it has stood up to the test of time.
The gelding was foaled in 1957 at Claiborne Farm. Trained by Dr. John Lee, Kelso made his debut in 1957 at the Atlantic City Race Course. Kelso won the race and set in motion a career that would see him compile a 39-12-2 record in 63 races.
Kelso would race just two more times in his two-year-old rookie season. However, the races ended in second place finishes despite being favourite in both. The horse was rested for the remainder of the season and bigger things were on the horizon.
The gelding began his three-year-old season with a new trainer, Carl Hanford. Under the guidance of his new trainer, Kelso won eight of nine races in 1960; an six of Kelso’s wins came in stakes. Kelso’s biggest victories that year came at the Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap and at the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Things just got better for Kelso and Hanford. The gelding won the first five races of the 1961 season completing a run of 11 straight wins between his three and four-year-old seasons. By the end of 1964, Kelso would win 11 major championship races.
During his career, he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup an unbelievable four times. Off the track, Kelso won five Horse of the Year titles. It is a record that still stands today.
After eight seasons in which Kelso won races, the horse was forced into retirement in 1966. Kelso suffered a hairline fracture in his right hindfoot. Rather than attempt a comeback, Hanford retired the champion race horse.
Kelso was not completely finished after retirement, however, and the horse became a show jumper and hunter. A year after retiring, Kelso was inducted into the US Racing Hall of Fame. The gelding is also immortalised as the Kelso Stakes at Belmont, which is named after him.

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