08/15/2011 11:59AM

Carl Hanford dies; trained Kelso


Carl Hanford, the Hall of Fame trainer who conditioned five-time Horse of the Year Kelso, died on Sunday night at his home near Delaware Park, according to Delaware officials. Hanford was 95.

Hanford, a former jockey who won the first race at Suffolk Downs in 1935, was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 2006 largely on the strength of his work with Kelso, the only five-time Horse of the Year in racing history. Kelso won 39 of 63 starts, including eight wins from nine starts during his 3-year-old campaign in 1960, when he was named both 3-year-old champion colt and Horse of the Year after beating older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Hanford trained for 30 years, but he was relatively unknown prior to taking on Kelso for Mrs. Allaire du Pont, who selected Hanford at the suggestion of her farm manager. After an interview, du Pont sent seven 3-year-old fillies to Hanford, along with one gelding with a headstrong reputation. The gelding was Kelso.

During Kelso’s unprecedented run, Hanford forged a close relationship with the horse, and in his later years he would talk about Kelso with a sense of awe.

“Kelso was an extremely determined horse,” Hanford told the Blood-Horse just prior to his 2006 induction to the Hall of Fame. “If he saw a horse in front, he wanted to get to him. You could take him back or send him to the front. He was an extremely sound horse who was light on his feet with incredible balance. Kelso could wheel on a dime, spinning around in a circle and never letting his feet touch each other.”

Hanford was born in a small town in Nebraska, and he quit high school to follow his older brother, Buddy, to work at the east coast racetracks in the early 1930s. Buddy died in 1933 after an accident during morning workouts in which he suffered severe head injuries.

A younger brother, Ira, commonly known as “Babe,” was also a successful jockey, and he became the youngest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby when he guided Bold Venture to victory in 1936. By that time, Carl Hanford had been riding professionally for several years, but he turned to training just before serving five years in the army during World War II.

Hanford retired from training in 1968 but worked as a steward at several tracks before retiring from racing in 1988 and settling near Delaware Park, where his late wife, Millie, was a paddock official. Millie, his wife of 48 years, died in 2005.