Kelso and the Choice Stakes at Monmouth Park, 1960

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…

The race day at Monmouth Park for the Choice Stake at a mile and a sixteenth came. [Bill] Hartack was in the saddle with 114 pounds. That day, I had a pair of Koop boots on, and I had them shining so you could see yourself in them. Mrs. du Pont gave me a gray and yellow jacket with Bohemia Stables on it. From that day on, that is what I wore when I took Kelso to the post.

Before we left the stall at the barn to go to the paddock, I would tie a yellow ribbon on his forelock, and when he won, I gave the ribbon to Mrs. du Pont, who would put it in the frame of the winning picture. (Sometimes, when the blacksmith would come and change shoes, I would keep them, and no one knew but me. My son still has them. I did this for about ten months, and then Carl said, “Dickie, when Kelso gets shod, give me the shoes.” “Sure, boss, whatever you say.”)

Back to the race. We were in the paddock with Kelso. Carl [Hanford] and Hartack were standing right under me, and I’m leaning over as far as I can without falling off the pony so I could hear what he was telling him. I could hear a little.

I heard him say, “Bill, keep this horse right up there, and I don’t mean drive him to the lead. Just keep him in striking distance going down the back side, and when you turn for home, let him run, but don’t knock him out.”

“Okay, yeah, okay,” Hartack said.

Me, Kelso, and Hartack head for the track, walking in front of the stand. Kelso stopped, and looked up in the grandstand. While he was standing there, Hartack slapped him with his whip, not hard, but hard enough so that it scared Kelso, and he almost jumped from under Hartack. He would have, if I didn’t have a hold of him.

I yelled at Hartack, “What the hell did you hit him for?”

He said, “I didn’t want him to start looking around now.”

I wanted to say something to that S.O.B., but I didn’t want to get into a yelling match in front of the stand, so I shut up, and he did too.

We loaded him into the gate on the outside. I think he was [post number] 7. When they took him from me, I went back to the quarter mile chute, so when they broke, I could not tell where Kelso was, but I could hear that Kelso was second on the outside, and when they hit the first turn, I could see he was going to the front. Going down the backside, he was two in front, and Hartack was just sitting there. Then they came to the quarter pole, and Kelso was about five or six lengths in front with Hartack not moving. That was about as easy a race as a horse could run. I got to the winner’s circle, but I don’t think I was in that picture because I was still on the pony.

We were all back at the barn, and [Kelso’s groom] Bill [Hall] came over to me to sit down, cool off, and he would finish walking Kelso which was not an easy job, as Bill soon found out. He gave him back to me, so I had about twenty more minutes to go. Soon he cooled off, and we put him in the stall. The pee man came, and he peed in the cup like a good boy. I went down to the end of the barn.

Mrs. du Pont and Carl were standing outside, talking about the race and where we might run him next. I heard Carl tell Mrs. du Pont that we could leave in the morning, and be there by noon. I didn’t hear where they were going. I went over to the track diner, and Bill was in there. I sat down there with him, and we were talking about the race. Bill said to me that we have a horse that nobody knows how good he is. Bill said that he heard Jimmy Croll and two other trainers talking about Kelso.

Jimmy Croll said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a horse run this way, and do it so easy. Carl will not let this horse rest.” (This means he will manage him well) I asked Bill if he heard Carl and Mrs. du Pont talking about where they would be shipping in the morning. Bill said that he heard it was to Belmont in New York.

Read the next chapter Kelso ships to Belmont and Eddie Arcaro agrees to ride