Epilogue to Dickie Jenkins and the legendary racehorse Kelso by Kevin Martin
Dickie Jenkins was one of only a handful of people associated with Kelso. Most didn’t know his name but Kelso fans certainly would recognize him. There are countless photographs of Kelso with a man on his back wearing an army helmet. That was Dickie. He remained with Kelso until the horse retired in 1966.
In 1964, Dickie played a bit part in an article about Kelso by Snowden Carter for The Maryland Horse. Carter, visiting Chesapeake Maryland in November, found Mrs. du Pont out riding her horse alongside another horse and rider in the open fields of Woodstock Farm.
Mrs du Pont introduced her riding partner as follows: “You know Dickie Jenkins, don’t you? And you certainly know Kelso.” According to Carter, “incredulous flabbergastion was my reaction” in finding the then reigning Horse of Year out gallivanting in the fields beside his owner. Snowden had come to Woodstock to talk to is owner about Kelso’s future:
We haven’t decided to retire Kelso. It’s just that he’s here, and I like to go riding with him. I’m having the time of my life. Really I am.”
“And KeIso’s enjoying it, too. He loves it. He crosses the streams like he’s been doing it all his life. And he looks around at just everything.”
As Mrs. du Pont talked, Kelso dropped his head, and Dick Jenkins willingly let him graze. Dick had his stirrups down, looking not one thing like an exercise boy.
It was obviously a great experience for Jenkins.
Instead of galloping Trainer Carl Hanford’s horses over a dirt track every morning. here he was at Chesapeake City hacking across country, wearing a cap instead of his hard, white-painted hat.
“Kelso will go to Aiken (South Carolina) this winter.” continued Mrs. du Pont. “He’ll gallop down there with the rest of the stable. What we’ll do with him next year we don’t know.
“He’ll probably do some charity work for one thing. You know, if a race track has a charity day and they want an attraction, we’ll show off Kelso for them.
“Doesn’t he look relaxed now? Just look at that belly he’s getting.”
Jenkins, with his hand on the horse’s back, smiled as we looked at the only horse in America ever to be voted Horse of the Year for five consecutive years.
“We gallop him a little,” said Jenkins. “We can’t let him get too fat.”
For Steve Haskin’s excellent book about Kelso published by Eclipse Press in 2003, he interviewed Dickie and reported that he left Woodstock three years after Kelso retired as the result of a dispute over an unnamed horse. According to Haskin, after leaving Woodstock, Mr. Jenkins worked for a period with trainer Fred Hooper in Alabama, exercised horses at the Green Mountain racetrack in Vermont, and then relocated to New Jersey to work at Cedar Lake Farm in Blairstown.
Dickie was there when Kelso made his famous and final public appearance with Forego at Belmont Park leading the post parade before the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1981. In 1987, Jenkins bought a farm in Live Oak, Florida where he kept a small string of broodmares. He told Haskin that his home was a “shrine to Kelso.”
I asked Anne what had happened to Dickie after the publication of Haskin’s book and she wrote:
In the Haskins book, we were told Dickie had a farm in Florida surrounded by pig farms. I gather he missed horse country and moved back to Kentucky. He did tell me that he started a feed company to provide thoroughbreds with healthy food which contained only natural ingredients (corn, oats, barley etc.) and absolutely no steroids. He did say that he had lost a number of sales because owners and trainers wanted steroids. But he was quite clear that he refused to compromise on that.
Dickie Jenkins passed away on June 15th 2010 in Kentucky. Anne Phister had received what would be the final installment of his manuscript about a year prior to his death. While incomplete, what he left behind is a unique contribution to the story and legend of the mighty Kelso.