The following is a chapter 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 to get back to Kelso, and how I got to break him in. He was the master of propping and wheeling, and would drop everybody that got on him, but he never did throw me. Now Bert would try his heart out to stay on him, but Kelso had his number. [Trainer] Carl Hanford will say that Bert broke Kelso, and did all these things with him. Why he said this, I don’t know, but Carl and I had our differences with horses and riders.
Carl has always had something against me. I know Carl always wanted to change the help at the farm and the track, but Mrs. du Pont had something to say about that. Now I want you to believe this, but I really looked up to Carl, and wanted to be more to him than just an exercise boy. I would have made him the best foreman he ever saw, and I mean that.
I look back now at things, and I can see how some things could have been done better. I don’t want to get started on that crap, and that’s exactly what it was, crap. The situation in my family wasn’t too good, and it showed up in the workplace. Instead of him trying to help me just a little bit, all I would get is how he saved my job which I know was bull because I was talking to Mrs. du Pont every day, and he didn’t know that.
I was with Mrs. du Pont for five years before Carl came, and I think he held that against me for some reason. He knew I was a good man on horses, and I knew I was a better exercise boy than he which is what killed him. Still, I liked him. Carl got me when I was having a lot of family troubles which I didn’t know how to handle. My trouble at home really got me down in the dumps, and I was messing up at work.
Enough about me and Hanford, let’s get back to the horse. We moved from the farm to Delaware Park, and took maybe eight horses, including Kelso, with us. I guess we were at Delaware Park two or three weeks, and one day, Carl wanted to work Kelso 5/8. We had worked 3/8 to 1/2 twice at the farm, but that track was alright for galloping but not for working out. We had good bottom at Delaware Park.
Carl told me we were going to work him 5/8, and we had about the deepest track around. Carl told me to just let him stay within himself, and not to let him go too fast. Okay. We went into the track at the 1/4 pole gap, and Carl said to break him at the 5/8. I didn’t think that was enough warm up for him. So when I got to the 5/8 pole, I dropped him in on the rail, and when I did that, he took off like a scared rabbit. I took a real good hold of him, and started to ease him off the fence so he would come back to me. He didn’t, so I just sat there with a hard hold of him, and let him finish in hand.
That day, Carl came riding up to me, saying, “Why the hell did you let him go that fast?”
I told him that I couldn’t hold him.
He said, “This S.O.B. went 59 and 3/5, and the best work that day was 1.03 2/5 because the track was deep.”
That day I knew he was a nice horse (not the five time Horse of the Year he became), and I knew if we ran him, he would win off that workout.
When we got back to the barn, I think Carl had the same thing on his mind that I did, that he might be a good horse. He cooled out that day real good, but was slow on his feed which is normal for some horses after a workout.
The next day, Carl started to look for a race to put him in, but could not find one. I sure was disappointed because I knew he would run a good race and have a win in Delaware, his home state.
We didn’t find a race there, but Carl had a book for Monmouth, and he put him in a six furlong race with Bill Hartack on him. I remember I took him to the track in the van, and when I got to the track, and put him in the stall, he came to the door, and that’s where he stayed, just looking and watching. The horse was almost human at times. That day, he won by ten, and came back to the barn, and you had a handful, just walking him to cool off.
That was the only time I didn’t go with him to the gate. In fact, I didn’t even watch the race. I took him over there in our van. I was the driver, and Bill Hall and Orval Mahoney were in the back. I had to stay with the van, since I didn’t have a badge to get into the paddock.
Bill Hall, his groom, told me later that he was a running machine, going the six furlongs in 1:10 flat. I can’t but think that everyone got a little high on him that day. It was hot, and the air was so thick you could hardly breathe, but he soon settled down, drank his water, and went back into his stall where the piss man would get his dripping for the test. Soon, we were ready to go back to Delaware Park.
I would take the van back to the farm [in Maryland], but I would get in my car and go back to the track to see if he ate his feed or left some. But when I got there, he was still eating.
Bill said, “I don’t think he will eat it all,” and that night is when Bill and I started to pay attention to him, but we still didn’t know what kind of horse he was going to be. That race really made us look a lot closer at him.
The next morning, when I got there to start training, I was talking with Bill, and he said that Kelso never touched his food. That morning, we were walking him, and this is the first time I noticed him cow kicking which I had never seen before. I shouldn’t say this, but I didn’t tell Carl, although he asked how he ate and settled in. Carl had come over that night to check on him, and that he looked okay. Anyway, he walked out of it, and was fine.
This was the first time I ever noticed Kelso with the colic, and I kept it to myself. From that day on, I always knew when Kelso had the colic. He would get it one or two times a month.
When we were out on the track, Carl asked me if I wanted to stay with him on the track or go back to the farm. Well, I really didn’t know what to tell him, for I was having family troubles, and was a real lost soul. I had two kids whom I loved very much, and really did not want to leave them.
My wife was another story, for we were not right for each other at all. I was better off away from her, but I would try to make things work for my kids’ sake. Anyway, I told him I would let him know something that week. When I got back that night, the phone rang, and it was Mrs. du Pont. She asked me to come to the house, so I went. She wanted me to stay with Carl on the track, and she would make sure that my family would be taken care of, and I could come home on some weekends. I told her that I would have to talk to my wife about it and she said that was okay.
When I asked my wife about it, she was glad to get rid of me, although I hated to leave my kids.
Read the next chapter: Kelso and Dickie become a team; a record for one mile