There is no horse in the history of thoroughbred racing that can lay claim to the type of career that Kelso had. Born in 1957, the gelding by Your Host beat more champions and Hall of Fame horses in a lengthy career than any other racehorse through the 20th century.
During a career that spanned eight seasons from 1959 through 1966, Kelso amassed $1,977,896, the highest lifetime earnings by any horse at that time. When accounting for inflation, that is equal to over $15 million in modern terms.
Owned by Allaire DuPont and trained by Carl Hanford, Kelso broke through in 1960 and dominated the sport for five straight years. He collected wins in the 1960 Hawthorne Gold Cup, 1961 and 1963 renewals of the Suburban Handicap, the 1963 Gulfstream Park Handicap and the John B. Campbell Handicap.
Beyond that, Kelso won the Jockey Club Gold Cup in five straight years between 1960 to 1964. He would also claim multiple titles at the Whtiney Stakes in 1961, 1963 and 1965 as well as two Aqueduct Handicap wins in 1963 and 1965. He is also a three-time winner of the Woodward Stakes from 1961 to 1963.
Kelso also took on many of the best turf horses in the world. After three second-place finishes in the Washington International, he finally broke through for a very popular victory in the race as a 7-year-old in 1964.
Kelso’s unreal durability in 63 starts led to another incredible achievement. While competing over a course of six years, Kelso earned 10 Eclipse Awards. Most impressively, he is a five-time Horse of the Year (1960 – 1964), four-time Champion Older Horse (1961-1964), and also won the 1960 Champion 3-year old male award.
Winning five Horse of the Year titles hasn’t been matched since Kelso did it in successive seasons. He would compete all the way through 1966 until a foot fracture would force him in to retirement. Kelso ended his stunning career with an overall record of 29-12-2 over 63 starts. It’s worth pointing out that many of his defeats came later in his career when weighted handicaps made it much more difficult for successful older horses to compete.
In 1967, just one year after his official retirement, Kelso was inducted in to the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame. Hanford was also inducted, in 2006; at the ceremony, he 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.”