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…
Now that we had the Discovery Handicap out of our way, and knowing Kelso was happy with Eddie Arcaro being his jockey, we could go on to our next race. We had a race coming up, the Woodward, and it was a mile and a quarter which I thought was a perfect race for Kelso, for he loved that distance.
Carl [Hanford] was talking to one of his trainer buddies, and I heard him telling him that he thought maybe Kelso wasn’t ready for the big boys by which he meant older horses. Kelso wasn’t worried, for he told me “Those old men will have to give me a lighter load to carry, and I don’t think they can beat me now.”
I thought in my own private world as trainer that he was right. But we had another race to look at which was a mile and five eighths [Lawrence Realization Stakes at Belmont Park], and guess who held that track record? The main man, Man o’ War.
When I galloped Kelso to get him ready for the race, he went all out, and flew around the track. He was that way all his life. He would never gallop slowly, and it was almost a two minute lick for the mile and a quarter which is a fast gallop. I think that is why he stayed so fit so long. So looking at a mile and five eighths, it wasn’t that long for him. The only thing was that he never ran that far, so I was a little afraid that he could not handle it.
Now this is where Kelso and I had a real good talk. I said, “Kelso, you know that this race is a mile and five eighths, and I know you have done what Carl has asked, and he thanks you for it, and Bill and I do too. Now I know Man o’ War has the record, and we don’t expect you to go out and try to break his record. We just want you to go out there, take care of yourself, and win the race. That is all Carl expects from you. Eddie likes you, and I know he will take care of you.”
That’s what I told my buddy, and I knew he wouldn’t let me or Carl down. I got to looking at all the good horses that were running at Belmont, and I knew we hadn’t had to hook up with Sword Dancer, Dotted Swiss or Bald Eagle yet, and I didn’t know if we ever would.
But there was one horse I noticed who had had a run at just about every good horse on the east coast, and that was Tompion. He had won the Travers Stakes, and since then he had run in just about every race with Kelso. Sometimes, that horse ran in races four or five days apart, and I thought this was catching up to him. I knew he was a tough horse, and it was a shame he couldn’t get a little time off, for he would come back and kick butt. I knew Carl would try to space Kelso a good ten to fourteen days between races, but sometimes, it could be six to eight days. This race was two weeks from the Discovery Handicap, and that was plenty of time for Kelso. Now Carl and I would find out if he could or couldn’t handle the distance.
Coming up to the Lawrence Realization, we blew him a half mile the morning of the race, and when I looked at my old chart which I kept for myself, he went in 48.2, and that was with me standing up on him the whole time which was how easy he did things.
The day of the race, I remember Carl telling me, “When you take him to the gate, don’t try to tell Eddie how to ride this horse because he did all right on the last two wins.”
“I’m not going to say a word to him unless he asks me,” I replied.
“Thank you,” said Carl.
Eddie did ask me if I thought he was ready for the mile and five eighths, and I said that I knew the exercise boy who galloped Tooth and Nail told me that they were going to take him back, and let everybody else run themselves into the ground.
Eddie said, “If it looks like that’s what they’ll do, and since Kelso feels good, I’m going to let him go to the front. If Kelso goes to the front without me urging him, that is where we will stay, and by the time they think they should move, I’ll be home, taking the saddle off.”
And that is exactly what happened. They never knew which way he went. When we got back to the barn that day after he won the Lawrence Realization, I was walking Kelso, and saw Bones, Eddie’s agent. He was standing at the end of the barn. I came around the corner, and he said, “Can you hold up a minute? I just want to touch this horse because I know there will never be another one like him for a long time. I’ve been in this business fifty-five years, and have seen it all, but never like him. Eddie told me that he could have broken Man o’ War’s record easy, and he could have been right on the world record. Dickie, I wanted to tell you this because I never heard Eddie talk about a horse like that, and he has ridden the best that ever was, but never one like Kelso. I was told to tell you this, and maybe someday, you can tell what I said.”
When he got through talking to me, I found myself real upset. Dammit, I was bawling like a baby, and I was never so proud of hearing that. I thanked Eddie, although he said to be quiet about it for awhile, and I hope this is for a while, because I’m going to tell it like I saw it and heard it.
Read the next chapter Kelso ships to Chicago for the Hawthorne Gold Cup