The following is an excerpt from the memoir of “Dickie” Jenkins. Jenkins served as the primary exercise rider for the legendary racehorse Kelso and was a longtime assistant for trainer Carl Hanford. Click here to read more from his memoir…
Now we have to go back to New York and make some money. Kelso had come down with some kind of virus, and it set him back some, but he never got real sick like the others. I was glad we were getting out of there.
We got to New York, and all I could think about was who Carl was going to get to ride this horse. Down in Aiken, he said that Mrs. du Pont said something about [Walter] Blum, and she also said something about Shoemaker. Well, they did sound like two good riders which was all right for me, not that it mattered what I thought. But if I didn’t like the rider, I would sure tell Carl as nicely as I could. Carl was trying to find an easy allowance race for him, so we might be able to run him in the Metropolitan Mile.
Kelso had two good workouts, but nothing to brag about. I think the last time we worked was the three quarters in which he went 1:13 3/5 which was good time. I guess Carl was trying to get him ready too quickly, and he would start missing meals when you rush him, and get the colic.
One afternoon, here comes Shoemaker’s agent [Harry Silbert]. I didn’t know him at all, although I had seen him a lot at the office, but had never spoken to him.
He asked if Carl was there, and I told him that he had just left, and I didn’t know when he was returning. He said to tell him that he had stopped by and would see him in the morning.
The next morning Carl said to me that he ran into Shoemaker’s agent yesterday afternoon. He had caught him at the main gate, and talked to him a little about Shoemaker riding Kelso. He said Shoemaker would be glad to. I guess he would be. We went out that morning, and Carl didn’t have much to say. I could tell he was worried about this horse and rider getting along.
I told Carl that the only thing I didn’t like about Shoemaker was that he was too light handed, and Kelso wanted to know that you were on his back, to grab hold of the reins, so he would grab hold of that bit. Carl told me I was right, and that he thought so too.
He said there was another thing. He didn’t want to run him in the Metropolitan Mile without giving him a race under his belt. I told Carl I didn’t think he was up to a mile race yet. Carl thought he would be okay, if he could get him one in the next three days.
Carl went to the office, and Tommy Trotter had written a race for him, but it didn’t go. The next day he told me that it looked like he was going to have to run him without a prep. That was the worst thing he could have said to me. My little world of training this horse was on fire. I couldn’t wait to tell Carl what I thought, that he didn’t have to run this horse, if he didn’t want to. But Carl told me not to tell him what to do, that he had enough on his plate. I still was going to say it, that I didn’t think he was ready to go a mile. The other horses in there have races under their belts, but Kelso has not run in almost seven months.
I was sure Carl knew it was going to be tough on him, and I didn’t think he would give anything, since the jock doesn’t know Kelso which would make a lot of difference. Carl could get mad at me for saying this, but I didn’t care. I just hated to see him not getting the same deal as the other horses are getting by which I mean the same opportunity they had by being ready to run in a race like the Met. You don’t send a horse into a race like that, no matter how good he is. He still has to be fit, not just half-fit.
Carl was not happy with me, and said he was tired of hearing all this bullshit I was coming up with all the time. Mrs. du Pont had hired him to train these horses, not me. I knew he was mad, but I didn’t care. I’m glad he knew that I knew what was happening here. Even a blind coon could know that Kelso was not ready for the Met. This horse has had six or seven months off, and has not trained hard for any race, much less the Met.
I went across the street to the diner and sat there, thinking what I could do to make Carl not run him. I was having family troubles at that time, and I didn’t want to make that mix with my job. I was feeling lost, and that is a bad feeling to have.
So I went back to the barn to get my car. Carl had left, and Fitz said to me that I might be right about Kelly not being ready, but Carl didn’t want me to tell him. He added that if I was wise, I wouldn’t say another word about it. I told Fitz that Carl was not thinking or something, but this horse meant a lot to me. I knew I wasn’t the owner or trainer or anything, but I couldn’t keep from telling him what I thought.
Fitz said that if he knew Carl, and he thought he did, he just might tell Mrs. du Pont to get rid of me, and he didn’t want that to happen. I knew Carl wouldn’t do that, but he sure would make everything hard for me. I also knew he would not put anybody else on Kelso, so I pretty much had him by the short hairs.
Read the next chapter: Kelso debuts as a 5-year-old in the Met Mile with Willie Shoemaker