Carl Hanford, 95; trained thoroughbred great Kelso
NEW YORK - In spring 1960, as the nation’s leading 3-year-old thoroughbreds competed in the Triple Crown, Carl Hanford began training horses for Allaire du Pont at her Bohemia Stable in Maryland. One of his first projects was a 3-year-old who had been gelded by his previous trainer to help him gain weight and to calm an ornery disposition. His name was Kelso.
Under Mr. Hanford’s guidance, Kelso made his 3-year-old debut in June 1960, having missed the Triple Crown races. He won eight of nine races that year, including the prestigious
Kelso went on to become one of America’s greatest thoroughbreds, winning a record five Horse of the Year citations. His brilliance led to Mr. Hanford’s induction into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 2006.
Mr. Hanford died Aug. 14 at his home in Wilmington, Del., where several photographs of Kelso graced his living room. He was 95.
His daughter, Gail Hanford, a thoroughbred trainer based at Delaware Park, confirmed his death. She said he had been in failing health since a stroke four years ago.
“Good horses just run,’’ Eddie Gaudet, a leading Maryland trainer, told The Blood-Horse, a magazine that chronicles the horse racing industry, when Mr. Hanford was inducted into the Hall of Fame. “It’s how you handle them that makes them great. He never overcooked a horse. It’s a hard thing to be patient, but Carl gave his horses time to develop.’’
Gail Hanford recalled Thursday that Kelso “was very, very nasty’’ when her father began training him.
“Kelso had drained all the exercise riders,’’ she said. “Nobody wanted to ride him.’’ Eventually, she said, her father found a rider who could gallop Kelso without being thrown.
Carl Henry Hanford was born in Fairbury, Neb., one of 10 children, three of whom became jockeys. His brother Buddy died at 21 of head injuries from a spill during a race at Pimlico in Baltimore, two days before he was to ride in the 1933 Kentucky Derby. Carl began riding at Eastern tracks in 1934. Another brother, Ira, won the 1936 Kentucky Derby aboard Bold Venture.
Mr. Hanford turned to training in 1939, and after serving in the US Army during World War II, he trained horses for a number of owners. His best horse before Kelso was the filly La Corredora, who won several stakes races in the 1950s.
Ridden mostly by Eddie Arcaro and Ismael Valenzuela, Kelso won the Gold Cup five consecutive times. He was a three-time winner of both the Woodward Stakes and the Whitney Handicap, and he won the Washington, D.C., International on the turf at age 7, outdueling his rival Gun Bow.
Named for Kelso Everett, a friend of du Pont’s, he won 39 times in 63 outings, racing until age 9 because he could not be bred. He was retired in 1966 with nearly $1.98 million in earnings, a world record at the time, and was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 1967.
After Kelso was retired, du Pont rode him on fox hunts.
Kelso made his final public appearance on Oct. 15, 1983, at age 26, when he was led onto the Belmont track together with the gelding Forego, 13, a three-time Horse of the Year, before the running of the Gold Cup. Their ceremonial appearances, aimed at drawing contributions from fans to finance housing for retired racehorses, drew cheers from a crowd of more than 32,000. The next day, after a ride back to du Pont’s farm, Kelso died of colic.
Mr. Hanford retired from training in 1968 and then worked as an official at several tracks, including Delaware Park.
In addition to his daughter, Gail, of Wilmington, he leaves a sister, Bernice Burgett of Ottumwa, Iowa. His wife, Millie, died in 2005, and his Kentucky Derby-winning brother, Ira, died in 2009.
Mr. Hanford deflected plaudits at his Hall of Fame induction.
“I’m here because of one horse and one horse only,’’ he said. “I had a few stakes horses before, but they didn’t compare with Kelso.’’