Eddie Arcaro on Kelso’s Met Mile and preparations for the Whitney, 1961

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…

I went to meet Eddie [Arcaro] the next morning [after the Met Mile], got to our place in the grandstand, and waited about twenty minutes before Eddie and [his jockey agent] Bones came along.

Eddie said, “Dickie, that horse almost got us beat. I took him back, and had one hell of a time trying to hold him. All those horses got in front of me, and I didn’t have any room to move. They just stayed right there to the three-sixteenth’s pole, and I knew we were going to get beat today. I was tired of holding him off the heels of those horses, and the only thing I knew to do was jerk him to the outside and hope for the best. When I did, there was nothing in front of him, and by himself, he took off like a madman, and before I knew it. I was alongside All Hands. Three jumps later, I was in front at the wire. What a horse! Dickie, what I wanted to ask, being that you work him all the time, when Carl [Hanford] tells you to go a slow half in 50, what the hell do you do? I know you don’t break his jaw.”

I said, “Eddie, sometimes, if you don’t grab him too hard, he will stay in that one stride, and you just sit there. He will go 47-48, sometimes even 49 or 50 [for a half mile], but you can’t hold him that slow. I think he almost gallops that. Unless you have a hold of his mouth, he will take his own self back. Don’t ever fight him because he will run his ass off, and you don’t want that. What this horse understands is when you grab hold of him that is almost like saying for him to go a little faster, and I don’t want to say that I taught him this. He picked that up as time went by because I was taught not to ever throw a horse’s head away, and never go from a pull to a drive. That would be like dragging a sled behind him all at once. That is the way I am, and he just picked it up after me, so you might say that I just taught him or showed him how it always worked for me.”

Kelso was a horse who, when it was time to go to work, always gave you his best, and never gave up because he was tired. He would always dig down and find something. He was all business in the gate, and warming up before the race. You would never see him acting up before the race or when he was galloping. He was always calm in the paddock.

He had this way about him, even at the barn, when you left to go to the paddock, he would just stare out into space. In the paddock, he would never move a muscle. When you loaded him into the gate, he would look to the front, and never turn his head side to side. People might think I’m a nut because I told them he talked with me, telling me when he was hurt, sick, or even showing me when he was happy. I could see it and feel it.

We walked Kelso for three days [after the Met Mile], and he seemed to have come out of that race okay. Carl said we would take him over to the school field, hack him around the jumps, and let him graze on that good grass.

The next day, we galloped him a mile and a half, and he was full of himself. He pulled me so hard that my arms were numb, and I was lucky that my legs were real strong which helped me some, but he sure was getting tough to gallop. That was a good way for me to tell that he was ready for another big one, and I thought all the good horses might go some place else to run and stay away from Kelso.

Several days after the Met, [Kelso’s groom] Bill got him ready and took him out of his stall. I walked up and took a hold of him, while Bill cleaned his feet. When I gave him back to Bill, he gave me a leg up, but the Kelso started cow kicking, and I knew what that was: colic.

I told Bill to get Carl out here, so he could see him. Carl was already on the pony, and when he came around to me, he told me to let him go around the shed row and see if he would come out of it. I did what he said, and he started to cow kick worse. Carl told Bill to take the pony and went to his office to call Doc Wright.

When he got there about twenty-five minutes later, Kelso was walking without cow kicking, and seemed to be better. Dr. Wright told us to put him in his stall and listened to his belly. He said that everything sounded alright, but didn’t think he should gallop today. Carl was okay with that, but we left the saddle on him, and I rode him around the shed. Then he started playing and trying to kick the wall. I told Carl that I thought it would be better if jogged him just a little, and let some of this fire and vinegar out of him.

Read the next chapter Kelso and the Whitney Stakes