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MULL IT OVER AND ANSWER SLOWLY
"HE SHOWED EVERYONE WHO WAS BOSS"
Kelso passed his final days like an old pensioner hanging out with his pals in a park. He shared a pasture with three other thoroughbreds. He was buddies with another gelding. Sea Spirit, who won the New Jersey Futurity in 1961. They grazed in the paddock and ambled across the hillside, and for much of the year they stabled in the same barn. Kelly and Pete, the grooms called them.
Kelso was one of the finest athletes of the 1960s. The five-time Horse of the Year carried as much as 136 pounds yet ran farther and faster than any other thoroughbred of his generation. He ran everything from six furlongs to two miles and was never beaten at the latter distance, breaking the American two-mile record at age seven. He finished in the money 53 times in 63 races, and despite skipping the Triple Crown in 1960 because his trainer, Carl Hanford, decided to bring him along slowly, won $1,977,896. Only John Henry, Spectacular Bid, Trinycarol and Affirmed have won more.
In his heyday Kelso was the most pampered of equine creatures. He bedded down on soft sugarcane shavings. Allaire du Pont, his owner and breeder, had pure spring water flown in for him from Little Rock, Ark., and his admirers sent him personalized sugar cubes with his name on the wrapper. After his retirement busloads of fans used to come to the farm to see him. Five hundred letters a week were stuffed into his private mailbox. For a time he even inspired his own monthly newsletter.
In recent years Kelso would hang his head over the top rail of a fence at Woodstock and watch young horses run on the farm track. He still appeared fit enough to race, though like a boxer out of training, his weight had shifted mostly to his midriff. Actually, he looked a lot better than most retired boxers. His teeth were long, and his ribs and flanks were more dappled than the railbirds at Aqueduct or Belmont would have remembered, but his coat was still a rich dark bay, and his eyes were bright and alert.