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…
It was now about the first part of July, and I didn’t know what Carl [Hanford] was doing about the next race for Kelso. Anyway, I had a talk with Carl about staying with him on the track. The only thing was that he had Orval Mahoney as the foreman of our stable whom I didn’t like, although I didn’t say one thing about it. Now this is where the shit flies. I knew that Orval was getting on some horses in the morning and I had gotten to the barn early that day. Carl came in, and told me who he wanted me to get on which was fine with me.
I saddled up the pony for Carl, and got on my horse, while Orval got on his. We went out, galloped our horses, and came back to the barn. While Carl was on the pony, he told me to get on some horse whose name I can’t remember, and he told Orval to get on Kelso. I didn’t like this one bit, but I kept my cool.
So Kelso comes out, and [groom] Bill [Hall] looked at me because he knew I was pissed. Orval came around Kelso’s side, and Bill gave him a leg up. Carl was by the main road, talking to someone, and didn’t see Orval getting on Kelso. When Orval turned Kelso around, I don’t know what he did, but all I could see was Orval on the ground. Carl came running up to Bill and Kelso, and wanted to know what happened.
All Orval would say was, “I got on, and the next thing I know, I’m on the ground. The s.o.b. threw me, but I will straighten his ass out.”
Carl said, “Dickie, get on him.”
From that day on, nobody ever got on him more than once or twice in seven years. When I got on him, I could see right then that he had real personality. But Kelso knew one thing, that I, old Dickie, was the leader of the pack, and we got along fine.
I was always impressed the way he took all the attention he now was getting. Kelso seemed to know what was going on all the time. He would know if he was going to race that day, because when you took down the hay rack, he would go to the front of his stall, and just stand there, looking out into space, never moving. It was the same in the morning, if you put the bandage in front of his stall, he knew he was going to work. You couldn’t outguess him.
Carl started to look for a race for him, and he did ask me if I thought Kelso could run a mile, or if I thought he was fit enough. I said yes because of the race he won, for he looked like he could run all day. When we were going out on the track, he told me that he found a race in New York that he thought he could run, and he was going to find out what kind of horse he had. I told Carl that Kelso trained like the good horse I knew he was, and that he did everything so easily, for he liked it out on the track in the morning, bucking and playing.
When Kelso galloped, he would gallop so fast that he passed every horse out there. I thought maybe Carl might say something about me galloping him too fast, but he didn’t. So that’s the way he galloped an almost two minute lick which is a slow work for him.
Carl was trying real hard to take the best care of this horse that he could. Mrs. du Pont [asked] why we had to go to New York to run him. She didn’t really care, but wanted Kelso to run at Delaware Park, his home track, but they didn’t write a race suitable for him, so we had to find a track that had one, and it turned out to be [an allowance race in] New York [Aqueduct].
Carl wanted to get [jockey Bill] Hartack back, but Hartack had other things to do, or just didn’t want to ride him. That’s when Carl and I started to try and work together with Kelso. Now we started to think about who would fit Kelso well. Carl asked me, and I told him if he runs like he did at Monmouth, it didn’t matter, to just tell him to hang on.
All kidding aside, we did want to get a good jockey to ride him, because Kelso knew if you knew what you were doing. We got to Aqueduct with no rider yet. Carl did ask me if I had any suggestion who we should get as a rider, and I didn’t have any, for I didn’t know any jockeys in New York. I told Carl he was going a mile, and he hadn’t even run that far, but the jock we get should be a well known rider.
So Carl started thinking with all the good riders here in New York, we should not have any trouble finding one. To make a long story short, we got Walter (Mousey) Blum to ride him. I sure didn’t want Blum to ride him. While I like Blum as a person, I didn’t think much of his riding which was on the front end. I don’t know if Carl knew how Walter Blum rode or not, but one thing I did know was that Blum would put him on the lead right out of the gate.
I thought that Kelso would want a rider that would take him back just a little, and let him settle down and relax because he was going a mile for the first time. I didn’t think he would like going to the front that far.
He had come out of his last race on the front end, and handled that real well. Maybe he was better than I thought. The day was here to prove it. I told myself that this horse was so ready that they won’t know which way he went. I sure had a good feeling about Kelso the way he played and jumped around.
I saw some of my old buddies, and they asked me what I thought of him. I told them I thought we might have a nice horse, and if he runs back to his last race, he is going to be hard to beat. Bill could hardly hold Kelso that day, for he was rearing up and slapping at Bill in the paddock. He settled down, and we put the saddle on him. Carl and Blum were talking, and I don’t know what Carl told him, but on the way to the gate, I wanted to ask Blum what Carl told him to do, but back in those days, you didn’t do that. You just took the horse to the gate, and that was that. But as we were warming up, Blum said that Carl told him to ask me what I thought about putting him on the front.
That made me feel good, and here is what I told him, “Walter, he will try to go to the front anyway, so let him go, and don’t, for goodness sake, don’t throw his head away. Just sit there with a nice hold of him, change holds down the back side, and he will run his ass off without even having to hit him. That’s how good I think he is.”
We loaded him up, and I think he was [post position] 3 or 4. When the man said go, Kelso went to the front like he’s been doing it all his life. As for Blum, I don’t think there’s a better front end rider than him. I thought Kelso was going to get tired and come back to Blum. Wrong. He kept going, and won by twelve lengths. I could not believe my eyes. Kelso was in front all the way, and ran the fastest mile any three year old had ever run in New York: 1 :34 1/5. The track record is 1 :33 3/5.
I got to see Walter Blum that afternoon, and he said, “Dickie, if I had gotten after him just a little bit, he would have set a new track record or even a world record.”
Even the track policeman was impressed, for he said, “What a horse! Where did you people come from?”
When I saw Blum one day about two months after that, and he told me that Kelso was the best horse he’d ever been on, and that’s saying a mouthful.
So here I am on the pony, and trying to get back to the winner’s circle to get my picture taken, but I didn’t make it. Everyone was there, and Carl came over to me while I was on the pony and said, “Dickie, look at the time this horse ran that mile.”
Now this day, Kelso went back to the barn, and coming off the track, he almost got loose from Bill, and would not stop playing till I got next to him with the pony. Well, when we finally got to the spit box, I put my pony away, and got back as fast as I could to cool him out.
He was so high after that race that I could not hold him with one hand, and it took both hands, and a few snappy jerks on the shank, but that didn’t help much. After about 25 minutes of walking him, I was called and told to put him in the stall so they could collect his urine. As soon as I put him in, he settled down, and did his pee thing.
Being just the exercise boy, I couldn’t say too much about what I thought or what was going to be his next race. Carl and Mrs. du Pont talked and came up with the Arlington Classic in Illinois. Since I was only the exercise boy, I kept my mouth shut, but I thought that putting him on a plane for the first time with only a seven day rest after that big race was just too quick to run him.
I knew Kelso was a good horse, and he liked what he was doing, but still, to me, that was what started all the colic, all the excitement of one week was a little too much.
Read the next chapter: Kelso’s stakes debut in Chicago