Kelso and the Suburban Handicap, 1962

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…

We walked and grazed him for three days [after the Met Mile], and he was starting to get to be a handful out there. The next day we got him out first, and took him to the training track to gallop. He flew around just about as fast as he ran that race the other day.

The Suburban was about twenty-five days away, and I knew he should be ready by then. I went to Bill Stenhlins’ back room to see if anybody else was there so I could find out what my buddies thought about the whole thing. The first thing I heard was to take that jock off him for he was not the rider for Kelso.

So, I asked who we would put on this horse. Everybody shut up, and you could hear a pin drop. There was silence for about five minutes, and then Yorkie McLeod said, “What are we here for? Let’s get a jock for Kelso, but we got to be quiet about it because Carl [Hanford] might say something to me, and he’s a good friend of mine, so keep your mouths shut, okay?”

I’m not going to tell the last names of my buddies, so they don’t have to worry. Zek, my old friend, said that Carl should put [Walter] Blum back on him, but I think he has already been booked. He thought we needed to get a rough s.o.b. to ride him, for Kelso wanted to be handled like you mean it. Zek felt [Bill] Shoemaker was a great rider, but he just wouldn’t fit this horse. He knew there were a few riders in California who might fit him, but he didn’t think we could get them to come east to ride this horse. As we were there, thinking who might fit this horse, I could remember Eddie [Arcaro] saying something about Milo Valenzuela before the D.C. International, but that was about it. I never heard Carl say anything about Milo after that.

The next day, Carl came to the barn and went into the office. I heard him say Mrs. du Pont’s name, so I got as close to the door as I could without him noticing me. I didn’t hear all of it, but I did hear Carl say that Shoemaker does not fit this horse. Carl came out of his office and said to me that this Shoemaker is not going to get the job done. I was really glad to hear Carl say that. He said he was going to try Shoemaker two or three times, maybe less, and that he had someone else in mind.

We got Kelso out early that morning to beat the heat. I think it was about June 12 or 13, and Carl said to me on the way back to the barn that he had to get another race for Kelso. When I shot back that the Met didn’t do it, he turned and smiled at me. Right then, I knew he gave him that race. I know you don’t give a stake race to prep a horse, but that was what we did. I didn’t say anymore, for I could get into trouble talking like that. Besides, I was only the exercise boy who didn’t know much.

Carl took off to the office that morning and I was about to leave, when he told me to go to the office, get an overnight, and see if Kelso got in. I asked if he had put him in anything. Carl said he had, but it might not go, if the others see he was in there. I saw Billy Christmas, who trains for Foxcatcher Farm, and he had Rose Net, who was in the allowance race with Kelso. Billy didn’t like that at all, but the race came off.

Race day, Carl told Shoemaker to get after him a little, and let him run right along with the leaders. Kelso blew out 3/8 in 35, and was bucking and playing, coming off the track that morning. He looked better than the day of the Metropolitan Mile. I hoped Shoemaker can get him to run for him because Carl was going to take him off.

We were warming up around the turn, and Shoemaker said, “You know, Eddie told me to ask you sometime how this horse was doing. I haven’t had time to say anything between the paddock and the gate.”

I told him, “He was doing just fine, all except the Met where he ran like a jackass. I think that was the worst race he ever ran, not saying anything about you. He is a horse you have to get used to, I guess.”

Shoemaker didn’t ask me anymore, so I shut up too. At the gate, Kelso was on the inside, #2 I think, and when the man said go, he was right there, going down that long backside at Belmont. He did like Belmont, for the track was always in good shape. He was still running second, and from where I was, it looked like Shoemaker had not moved at all. Then at the 3/16 pole, he went to the lead, and won real easy with that bunch of horses.

I did try to get my picture taken, but I decided to wait for the big one, if we could win one with this jock. We got to the test barn, and Carl came in while I was walking Kelso, or rather he was walking me. He was so tough. That I had to put chains in his mouth. Carl came alongside of me while I was walking and said that Shoemaker rode the horse bad and complained he was a tough horse to ride. That was bull. He just didn’t fit the horse, and he knew it.

We ran in the Suburban, and he should have won, but [Shoemaker] kept Kelso too far back, and let Beau Purple just gallop. He went the first half in 48.4, almost 49, and I could never hold Kelso that slow. Then Beau Purple went the 3/4 in 1:12.6 which was a slow work for Kelso. [Jockey Bill] Boland gave him a rest the next quarter mile, and Kelso was still waiting for Shoemaker to turn him loose so he can run.

The Suburban was not a good work for Kelso. He went slower than I could hold him sometimes. Back at the barn, [Kelso’s groom] Fitz said, “That jock might be good on other horses, but he ain’t worth a shit on Kelso. Tell Carl to let him go back to California where he belongs.”

I told Fitz, “We should not say bad things about him, for he is a great rider. He just can’t ride Kelso.”

Read the next chapter: Shoemaker’s last ride on Kelso