Kelso and the Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct, 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…

Trying to find another race at Belmont for my buddy wasn’t hard because there is a stake race every weekend, and sometimes during the week. We gave Kelso 10 or 11 [days] off to start him in the Discovery Handicap which was coming up. Old Careless John, Count Amber and some other horses were going to try again to beat Kelso.

The day before the race, I blew Kelso 3/8 in 35.2, and during that workout, my iron broke, and I almost fell off. When I saw I was going, I reached for the top of Kelso’s neck and grabbed a handful of mane, hoping he wouldn’t start ducking from my laying on the side of his neck. But he ran straight as an arrow, while I got myself back in the saddle. Carl [Hanford] came running up with the pony, and couldn’t believe I stayed with Kelso. He said it looked like I fell off and somehow got back on him. It was a close call for me, but we made it, and he was ready to go in the Discovery Handicap.

I knew he was ready, for he was playing, coming off the track, and during the time I was cooling him out in the barn, I had to watch out he didn’t kick the wall which he came pretty close to doing.

The day of the race came, and boy, had it been a week. Riding Kelso in the morning had kept me fit, and I knew that he was so fit and ready he could hardly stand himself. Going over to the paddock, Kelso would stop and look, but when he got to the paddock to be saddled, he would not move an inch, for he was all business from now to the end of the race. No hanky panky at all.

Carl had [Eddie] Arcaro in the paddock, telling him what to do and all that stuff, when all you have to do is put him on the horse and let him go. That’s how much I knew this horse. Bill came around the walking ring, stopped Kelso, and waited for Carl and Eddie to come over. The man said riders up, and here we go again.

The day before the race, I told Kelso, “Old buddy, we got the best jockey out here, and tomorrow in the race, you got to show Mr. Arcaro what you are made of, and that way we can keep him forever. Okay, old buddy?”

And that is really what I told him to do, believe it or not.

Arcaro, Kelso and I were out on the track, and walked in front of the stands. Kelso stopped, and as soon as he did, I told Eddie to just let him look.

“Yeah,” Eddie said, “because I hope he doesn’t look while we are running.”

“Don’t worry, he won’t.”

He was on the inside at the gate, and I was trying to kill time, but they loaded him in, and everyone seemed to go in all right.

When the man said go, I was looking in back of Kelso when he broke. I really don’t know what he did next, but it was like now you see me, now you don’t. It looked like he swerved or more likely, ducked.

Anyway, going to the first turn, I could see he was all right. He was fourth or fifth at the turn, but not too far off the lead. Going down the back side at the turn, Kelso was in front of Careless John by about three quarters of a length.

When he turned for home, Eddie said, “He just started to pull me out of the saddle. I don’t know how fast this horse could have gone that day. I know he broke the track record, and I didn’t let him run. What I was trying to do was to let him win but not too far in front of the second horse, just so they wouldn’t load him up in his next race.”

Going back to the spit box, I took Kelso from Bill to give him a break from all that walking, and while I was walking him around the shed, I stopped on the other side, and this is what Kelso told me, straight from the horse’s mouth.

“Dickie,” he said, “I hope that got his attention because I would have broken the world’s record easy, and that ain’t no bull. So let’s go and cool me out. I want to get back in my own stall, have a good meal, and hit the hay.”

Pretty smart horse, if you ask me. Later he said, “I would like to thank Carl for getting Mr. Arcaro to ride me, and I know, Dickie, that you are happy about that because you like Mr. Arcaro too.”

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