Kelso wins Whitney at Saratoga, 1965

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.

Image: Kelso (outside) powers past Malicious to win his third Whitney. (Sports Illustrated, August 16, 1965)

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.


“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

Read more about Kelso online:
Kelso’s Hall of Fame Page
Kelso – “King Kelly” by Cindy Pierson Dulay
Keslo at

A big thank you to Seth Merrow at for linking to the article on Saratoga Opening Day, 1907 last week. We had a tremendous number of hits via Seth’s great site.

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!

Filed in Kelso,Saratoga Race Course,Whitney Handicap

6 Responses to “Kelso wins Whitney at Saratoga, 1965”

  1. cainhoy says:

    Great article! Long Live The Mighty Kelso! I was in elementary school when he capaigned, so I only have a hazy recollection of him being praised to no end on the sports pages of the N.Y. Daily News as I read stories about the then mighty Yanks. Now, I know what I missed. I did though get to watch another great gelding, old John Henry in the walking ring at Belmont years later and got to visit him again in retirement at the Horse Park.
    Every day I am more convinced that the world outside horse racing just isn’t worth taking note of.

  2. QQ says:

    OMG! There’s someone else who visits the library while on vacation!!

    By the way, I really enjoyed Linda Kennedy’s Kelso book — though a bit uneven, I thought she had a real knack for describing the races. What did you think of it?

  3. JERRY O'NEIL says:


  4. Teddy Lopez says:

    There has never been a horse like the great Kelso and, there will never be another horse like Kelso. Kelso was and, is and, always will be the greatest racehorse of all-times for more reasons than any other racehorse of all-times. I’ve listed some of those reasons before. Kelso was a true phenomenon. a freak. I’ll never forget him. Kelsos’ biggest fan.

  5. Edward Susman says:

    I was editing The Saratogian’s Pink Sheet racing final that day. Landon Manning, the long-time sports editor was reporting the race. He said that sports writers in the press box had tears in their eyes as Kelso bore down on Malicious catching him at the wire. They say Kelso looked over at Malicious — having given up as much as a 20 length lead in an attempt to steal the race — and Malicious bowed his head as Kelso stuck his nose across the finish line to win the Whitney Stakes. Kelso had been saddled with 132 pounds. Malicious was assigned 114, but an apprentice jockey was put aboard the three-year old colt to take another 5 pounds off. It didn’t matter. Manning reported that down the stretch it seemed that for every stride Malicious took, Kelso took two, thundering down to the wire as the true champion he was.

  6. Teddy Lopez says:

    Secretariat fans talk all that jive about his perfomance at belmont in 1973′, when all the competition he really had in that particular race was sham and, sham who was his cousin, by the way, and,could keep up with him, broke down for some strange reason. Sham had ended up ahead of him in some old race and, ended up secound at the derby that year although he hit his head againts the gate and, tore out two teeth and, was bleeding, which must have affected his breathing. The other 2 horses not too many people can even name. They try to say nobody wanted to compete with secretariat after his perfomances in the 2 other races, but still look at the competition he had in that race. He did that carrying 126 pounds, it was a mile and, a half ofcaurse and, it was on dirt. He did that on two turns. Now this is a new thing I discovered comparing his performance to the great kelsos’ at the dc. The turns at belmont were sweeping turns compared to the 3 that kelso did at the dc which where tight turns and, that dc didn’t use no starting gates because the foreign horses were not use to them, they used tape for that race, which would have thrown kelso off and, made it harder for him. Now if you take the tight turns and, that kelso did that in 3 turns and, not two like secretariat at belmont, the fellow who wrote the article I read on this was familiar with both tracks,bekmont and, the laurel park where kelso ran the dc. It plain words the turns at laurel park for the dc were more difficult than belmonts, now add the no starting gates and, that kelso had much better competition, what the hell do you get? Now go ahead and, add on to that that the great kelso had set a record, breaking his own record at none the less, the jockey gold cup which was two miles and, the 5th time he had won that, being the only horse to win it 5 times and, mind you, in a row, this was on a sloppy track where he did 3:19 1/5, think he would have done 3:18? Kelso was just plain out the greatest racehorse of all-times. He also won the jockey gold cup the woodward and, the whitney in the same year twice, like if one year would not have been scary! H is one of only 3 horses to winthe jockey gold cup, the woodward and the whitney the same year! He would have won a 4th woodward but, his cousin gunbow beat him by a nose, but they hardly tell you that the horse that look like a deer and, yet carried all the weighht, hit his head againts the gate and, fell to 3 legs in that race or else he would have won a 4th woodward! He is the only horse of 3 that ever won the handicap triple crown, who won the 3 races carrying over 130 pounds, in one giving 20 pounds away to the runner up! Make no mistake of it and, be aware that if a big horse like secretariat or forego who weighed about 1,200 pounds compared to kelso who weighed about 1000 pounds, if he weighed that much, some say it was more like 900, was carrying the same amount of wieght as those big horses, it was common sense that it was more of a burden on the great kelso who look like a deer! He carried 12pct of his body weight that;s more than forego! He was still beating big horses gving away weight to them! He was for so many reasons the greatest. I tell people who don’t know hell about KING KELLY to make sure they’re sitting down when they discover the unbelievable things the great kelso did! Especially the secretariat fans. Yes prove out would have been one of the greatest horses of all-times had Allen Jerkins got him earlier but when prove out did 3:20 flat at the jockey gold cup when it was still 2 miles and, kicked Riva ridges’ butt, who couldn’t run on a sloppy track for crap, he didn’t do it on a sloppy track, kelso even broke his own record on a sloppy track at his last jockey gold cup! Yes, ‘ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A HORSE NAMED KELSO BUT, ONLY ONCE’. Doesn’t get better than kelso all respects to his great grandfther who was a great horse Man Of war and, all of kelsos’ other relatives like war admiral who was a triple crown winner and, kelsos’ grandfather, count fleet who was his damsire and, was one hell of a horse and, seabiscuit who was also related to the great kelso and, not to forget gunbow who was a dandy and was kelsos’ cousin. To sum him up when they brought kelso back to belmont on last time cause so many people who remembered andm, loved him wanted to see him, he was 26, forego who was 13 and, John henry was there, who never won carrying 136 pounds in two races that he was asigned that weight, kelso did. They say kelso was 26 and, still looked as young as forego! Somebody told me ‘kelso was a freak, a phenomenon’. He sure was and, that’s not gonna happen again for a horse to win 5 horse of the years he has to d it in a row and, that alone might never happen, they would also have to win the jockey gold cup 5 times, never mind have to do it the same years he wins the horse of the year eclipse award! Who the damn hell is gona do something like that. Who’s gonna pull that? Man, the jockey gold cup isn’t even 2 miles anymore. Kelso was the greatest and, I will discuss that with anybody. I rore for kelso with the greatest passion. Poor kelso, he looked like a deer, he was even cute, didn’t look like a killer with his yellow ribbon on his head. ‘ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A HORSE NAMED KELSO BUT, ONLY ONCE’ My God he sure passed this way. Kelsos’ biggest fan, Teddy.