Kelso and the Whitney Stakes, 1961

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…

Kelso wins the Whitney, 1961Here it was, June 9 or 10, and about a week from the Whitney, and Kelso was going great. He was eating his feed morning, noon and night. Carl [Hanford] wanted to work him, but there was a downpour. We waited until it let up some.

It was warm, not too hot, and Carl told me to get ready to get wet, for we were going to the track to work. It started raining hard again, and you couldn’t see twenty feet in front of you. Carl stayed right alongside of me, and we started to gallop. When we got to the mile pole on the main track, Carl told me to work him a slow three quarters or as slow as I could hold him without strangling him.

We got to the three quarter pole, and I didn’t let him go to the inside rail. I just let him ease off in a fast gallop to do three quarters, and before you know it, he was gone, and I just sat there, talking to him and trying to make him come back to me. Anyway, he was moving nice and even, and I dared not change a hold on him, I didn’t move at all.

I got to the wire, and I could see Carl on the pony when I went by. I pulled him up, stood him out, and started to jog back to meet Carl. Then this son of a gun wheeled around, almost dropped me, and took off like a bat out of hell. I pulled him up, and Carl came over and asked me what he saw to make him do that.

I said, “He doesn’t have to see anything. He just does it sometimes, and you have to watch him.”

Carl took hold of him, and I asked if he had gotten a time on him. Carl said that he had snapped his watch when I left the three quarter pole. He had come back to the wire to catch him, but hadn’t been able to see us on the backside. But he clocked us at 1:12.3. Carl took off to the stands to see if Frankie the clocker got him. We got back to the barn, and Bill started washing Kelso.

When Carl got back to the barn, he said, “Dickie, I know you had him going nice and even when you passed me, but you won’t believe how fast he went. Frank said he will slow him down in the Racing Form so Trotter can’t see it. We went 1.11 flat.”

Well, that was slowest I could hold him. I told Carl that I just hoped he runs back to all this good training. Carl laughed, and said, “If you had worked a horse for Elliot Burch three quarters of mile, came back, and told him you had a hold of a horse and he still went 1.11 flat, he would kick your ass all the way back to the Florida barn where you came from.”

Kelso came up to the Whitney in good shape, and he was ready to go. Eddie [Arcaro] came by the barn the morning of the race to see Carl, and I was in my car going to get some lunch. Eddie saw me, and yelled at me to wait, although I didn’t know it was him from the distance. I got out, went over to the fence and down the horse path where he was. He wanted to know how the big horse was doing, and I said he was fine and dandy, that he better eat his Wheaties because he was going to be tough.

I thought he could handle this field of horses because there was no speed to speak of, and Tommy Trotter had only put 130 pounds on him. I had been worried that he might put 135 on him, so I felt we had gotten kind of lucky with that, and this race would set him up real good for the Suburban.

The Suburban was about 15 or 16 days off, and if he won the Whitney, I hoped Trotter wouldn’t load him down too much, but I knew he would lay it on him. Eddie said he had about an hour to get home and then get back to the jockey room. He told me to tell Carl he had stopped by, and that he would see him at the races. So instead of getting lunch, I went back to the barn, and [Kelso’s groom] Bill was there, eating a big deli ham sandwich. He knew I hadn’t eaten, and he was so nervous that he couldn’t eat so he gave me half of his sandwich.

We went back to the shed to see what Kelso was doing. There he was, just staring out the window and listening to the noise in the grandstand. I told Bill to take a look at him and tell me that he wouldn’t win. Bill said that I shouldn’t start with that shit, that he was already nervous enough. I let him be and helped him get Kelso ready.

Carl came in to ask if everything was okay, and Bill said he was ready to go when they were. Then he asked me if I had any ribbon to put in his forelock. I had forgotten to get some, and I was not about to be caught empty-handed. I took off and went across the street to a drug store where they had some. That was the last time I ran out of ribbon.

Bill called me over to the stall, and said he wanted me to put the ribbon on. I asked him why he didn’t do it himself, and he told me that he was too shaky and nervous. I laughed at him, told him to settle down, and not to worry so much. Carl said he had to get over there and meet Mrs. du Pont, but was everything really okay now? Bill said that it was, and we would see him over there.

Bill and I sat around the barn for an hour and a half until they called us for the race. I got the pony, and Bill told me to keep that pony close to us because Kelso seems to walk a little slower. It turned out that on the way to the last race we had nearly walked him to death, so he wanted us to go slow. It didn’t work. Kelso was on his toes, and was ready to go to work. He wasn’t acting up. He just wanted to get out there and get the job done.

We get to the paddock, and Carl told us to come into the stall. As soon as the valet came with the saddle, he wanted to put it on him. That way, we could take him and walk him around the ring. He wanted me to have the pony stay here, and let Kelso go by himself. Kelso would have none of that, for he wanted that pony in front of him. Mrs. du Pont came over with all her family. She waved at Bill to bring him over so she could see him and show him to all her friends.

Eddie was in the ring, waiting for Carl to come over and let him know what to do. Carl didn’t see him standing there, for he was waiting for him to come to the paddock. He finally spotted him and went over. Bill, Kelso and me were walking around, and I was looking at the horses we were going to run with.

All Hands was there, and he looked real good. There was Polylad, but he didn’t catch my eye as much as this horse, Our Hope. He was one good looking horse, big, red, muscled, with a hump like a quarter horse, but I didn’t see him running with Kelso. He was giving weight to all the horses in the race, and I still knew he could beat them all easy.

We got to the gate, and the gate handlers took Kelso and held him while the loaded the number one, two, three and four horses. Kelso was in the five hole, and I had told Eddie that he could almost go to the front and stay there, and still not win by too much.

I think it almost got him beat. Eddie was in front at the quarter pole and not looking too much over his shoulder when Our Hope made a move on the outside. From where I was, I didn’t see all the bumping. All I could see was Our Hope head and head with Kelso, and all I could think of was that Eddie had messed up by trying not to win by too much. When Eddie was pulling up, he didn’t even look at me, and the pony boy.

Editor’s Note: Here the manuscript breaks off, and starts up again when you have Kelso at the barn, and Mrs. du Pont is asking if Kelso is all right. There may be 2-3 pages missing. Kelso finished second in the Whitney but Arcaro claimed foul (he had paint on his boot and a bent stirrup) and Our Hope was disqualified.

whitney_1961

We got back to our barn, and Mrs. du Pont was there, worried about Kelso.

“He’s all right, Dickie?” she said.

“Yes, he’s all right, and it hasn’t bothered him at all. He is walking okay, and feeling pretty good. That damn jockey tried to put him through the fence, and he should be punished for that. The stewards will take care of that, and he might get some time off from riding.”

“How long is it to that Suburban race?’ she said.

Carl replied, “Mrs., we got just a little more than two weeks, and I’m sure he will be okay by then. He could run next week if he had to, so don’t worry. He will be fine.”

Read the next chapter Kelso completes the New York Handicap Triple Crown with a win in the Suburban