Aug 2nd 2008 08:19 pm |
Updated: June 18, 2013
Commentator’s victory in last Saturday’s Whitney Handicap prompted Steve Crist – an “unabashed Commentator fan of long standing” – to call him “probably the best New York bred ever.” Steve Haskin, in a piece similar in tone to Crist’s, compared Commentator with other recent geldings who performed feats that remind racing fans why the sport is so compelling.
Image: Commentator with John Valazquez aboard before the 2008 Whitney Handicap.
Another bonus coming from Commentator’s great victory is that it revived the name of Kelso who was the oldest winner of the Whitney at age 8 in 1965. Like Commentator, Kelso had his doubters when he stepped into the gate for the 1965 Whitney at Saratoga. Here is a little background and the news story on Kelso’s third Whitney win.
In 1965, Kelso arrived at Saratoga as the reigning five time Horse of the Year and was, by far, the most popular racehorse in America. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1961 (left), was the subject of a feature article in Look Magazine in 1965, and consistently drew huge crowds every time he took the track.
After winning the Washington D.C. International in his final race of 1964, all indications from owner Allaire DuPont pointed to the end of his racing career. His win in the D.C. International came after three previous attempts where he ran second in the prestigious turf event at Laurel Park. In finally breaking through in the International, it seemed a fitting finale for the great gelding. However, Kelso and his trainer Carol Hanford had other ideas. Ms. DuPont decided in June 1965 to put Kelso back onto the track for an 8-year-old campaign.
His 1965 season started with a 3rd place in an allowance race, followed by a win in the Diamond State Handicap at Delaware Park, and another 3rd in the Brooklyn Handicap. Entering the Whitney in August 1965 he would be facing Pia Star who had beaten him in the Brooklyn. Most of the handicappers for the Daily Racing Form picked Pia Star to beat the 8-year-old. In 1965, a record third Whitney was no sure thing even though the crowd of over 23,000 sent him off as the favorite. Sports Illustrated reported that nearly 12,000 fans crowded into the paddock area for what would be Kelso’s final appearance at the Spa. This is how the Albany Times Union reported the result of the 1965 Whitney Handicap on August 8th:
“Mighty Kelso exploded with his old time power in the stretch at Saratoga Saturday and won the $54,400 Whitney Stakes by a nose in the very last stride to boost his record earnings still closer to $2 million.
Circling around three horses as the small field of five entered the stretch in the 38th running of the stake. Kelso pounded down the straight away on the outside in a relentless run that carried him to his third victory in the race and the 30th stakes victory of his career.
The five-time ‘horse of the year’, still the outstanding horse in the country at the age of eight picked up a winner’s purse of $35,360 for the Bohemia Stable of Mrs. Allaire C. DuPont to raise his lifetime earnings to $1,954,164. The gelded son of Your Host carried high weight of 130 pounds and the high hopes of almost everyone in a crowd of 23,306.
He carried his heavy burden over the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49 4/5, only four-fifths of a second slower than the track record and he paid off his backers at the rate of $4.10, $3.00, and $2.20 across the board.
It was Greentree Stable’s Malicious who was the victim of Kelso’s tremendous closing rush. For Malicious went to the front at the start and was still in front under his 114 pounds when Jockey Ismael Valenzuela, whipping and driving with every ounce of strength, brought Kelso up along side the early leaders and then inched ahead of him at the finish line.
Mrs. Ada L. Rice’s Pia Star, who went into the race with four straight victories – including one over Kelso in the Brooklyn Handicap – was third six lengths back, with Crewman fourth and Coker fifth and last…
The crowd went wild as Kelso made his bid. Many of the same fans had seen Kelso look menacingly at the top of the stretch but then flatten out in the Brooklyn Handicap to finish third.
But this time the ‘old man of racing’ came on like gangbusters and the din was overwhelming as he beat out Malicious in a final lunge at the wire.
‘It took him a little time to make up his mind but then he really turned it on,’ said Valenzuela. And so the aged gelding did winning for the second time in four races this year and adding the Whitney to his previous win in the Diamond State Handicap at Delaware Park
It was back in 1961 that Kelso won the Whitney for the first time in 1963 he scored again and the way he ran Saturday he looks like the long range favorite to win it again in 1966.
In the fall of 1965, Kelso would win the Stymie Handicap at Aqueduct by eight lengths but that race ended his season as he injured his eye during the race. In attempting a return in 1966, he fractured the tip of his sesamoid during training and was finally retired. Though fans in Saratoga to watch the 1965 Whitney didn’t know it, they had witnessed one of the last great victories of the “mighty” Kelso.
NOTES AND SOURCES
“Kelso Captures Whitney By Nose Over Malicious,” Albany Times Union, August 8th, 1965
“Faith and Form at Saratoga”, Sports Illustrated, August 16, 1965
Steve Haskin, Keslo, Thoroughbred Legends Series, Eclipse Press
Linda Kennedy, Kelso: The Horse of Gold
Apologies for the late posting this week. I almost broke my streak of consecutive weekly postings since launching the site in April.
I made a trip to the New York State Library in Albany while vacationing this past week and found some great stuff in the Albany and Saratoga Springs newspapers that I will be sharing over the next few weeks.
Hope everyone had better luck then me at the Spa last weekend. While I did little at the windows, I still had a memorable two days.
Thanks for reading and good luck!