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…
Here it was, September 28, and tomorrow was race day. I felt all tied up or something. I was just all ready to go, and had to wait one more day. But I made it to race day, and was still in one piece.
Kelso was at the door, staring out across the bars and not moving a hair. This horse knew when he was going to run, and the reason why I say this was because when I blew him out which I did so many times, he knew at three eighths and a half mile that he was going to run the next day. I think he really knew that, and why shouldn’t he?
Any horse that talks to you should know that when you blow him out, he is going to run the next day. [His groom] Fitz was putting rundowns on him, and I didn’t like the way they looked.
This was the first time Carl let him put them on him. I didn’t want to say anything to him, for Carl and I usually would put them on. Carl had said yesterday that he wanted to run him in rundowns, and I guess Fitz heard him and just started to put them on.
Carl [Hanford] came back in, and I met him at the back door, so Fitz could not hear me talking to Carl. I asked if he had told Fitz to put rundowns on Kelso. Carl said hell no, that either he or I would do that. I told him he better get out there and say something, but not to go hurt his feelings.
Carl said not to worry, that he wouldn’t. I stayed down at the pony stall when Carl went to Kelso’s stall. He told Fitz that he was sorry he had already had rundowns on him, but he had to take them off. He had some rubber pads that went with the rundowns. When I heard that, I sure hoped he had some rubber pads in his pocket because there sure weren’t any in the tack room.
Carl told Fitz to get his bridle ready, and then he yelled at me to come and hold Kelso. I went down to the stall while Fitz was in the tack room, and Carl said to get down and reset them before Fitz got back.
He didn’t want to get his pants dirty. I got down to take them off, and I could see why Fitz never put rundowns on him before. I took my hand, rubbed down on the bandage, and it fell to his hoof. Carl said that was why Fitz did not put rundowns on any horse because he could never put them on right. We got them on, and Fitz didn’t know the difference.
Fitz came out of the tack room with Kelso’s bridle and yellow ribbon, asked if we had gotten the rundowns on yet. He was going to ask one of us to check on what he had put on to make sure they were all right. Carl told Fitz that if he wanted him to put anymore rundowns on, he would tell him.
Kelso got his bridle and his yellow ribbon on. I got my pony, and away we went. Kelso got about half way there, stopped and just stared at the grandstand. Everybody was shouting Kelso’s name and clapping their hands.
The grandstand was shaking, and the people were yelling so loud that you couldn’t hear what anybody was saying. Fitz said that he had never heard this kind of ovation in all the time he had been on the track, and that was fifty years.
We got into the paddock, and Mrs. du Pont was looking around and saying something, but I couldn’t hear a thing. I got closer to her, and she put her hand on my knee, saying we all should be proud of our friend, Kelso because he is a famous fellow now. She added that I should be good to him always, but I told her that she didn’t need to worry about that because Kelso was my best friend, and the people in the stands loved him too.
Carl was trying to tell [jockey] Milo [Velanzuela] something, but it was so loud that Milo couldn’t hear. We waited about ten minutes, and things calmed down some. Then Carl told Milo things to do, and that he should not have any trouble with this field of horses. I think there were about eight of them. There was one horse in there that could run, but I wasn’t worried about him. That was Jaipur.
I got out on the track, and Milo was trying to ask me something, but I could not hear him. I yelled at him to wait until we got down to the turn, and then we could hear what each of us was saying. Milo told me that he had never heard people yell so much over a horse, not even in the Derby.
Carl had told Milo to ride him just like he did in the Stymie, and though I could have kept my mouth shut, I asked him if he remembered what Eddie said. He started laughing at me and said, “Dickie, I didn’t forget, and I know not to ever turn a horse’s head loose. That was the way I was taught.”
“You’re a good jock, and you fit this horse just right,” I told him.
Milo said thank you. I told him I wasn’t trying to tell him what to do or anything like that, but if he listened to me and Carl, he wouldn’t get beat.
Milo smiled and said that you can’t win them all, but I told him he could. Milo started laughing and said let’s see if we can beat Jaipur, for all the other jocks said he was going to be real tough to beat. I thought that was bull malarkey, that he wouldn’t know which way Kelso went when he got to the quarter pole.
We loaded Kelso into the gate. He was #5, and all the other horses loaded well. Kelso was standing there, looking down the track. The man said go, and at first, Kelso was outrun from the gate, but before you knew it, he was right there with them. I turned my pony around, and went to the outside fence so I could see better. When I got there, I saw Kelso was in front with Jaipur right behind him.
They turned for home, and at the quarter pole, Milo said that all he did was cluck to him and reach for another hold. He took off, winning by four or five with Milo standing up on him.
That was a nice and easy race. I got back to the winner’s circle to get my picture taken. Milo was one happy Mexican man. When he got off, Mrs. du Pont gave him a big hug, and when he saw me, he hugged me too, and asked if Jaipur had gotten here yet.
I told him no, that he was still running.
Milo laughed and said that Kelso was some horse who made his job so much fun, no work about it. Carl said to me that Milo had done just what he told him. Carl felt much better about him, saying that at first Milo didn’t understand him, but now he knew he could follow orders, and that was all it would take with Kelso.
Milo had told him about me telling him two or three times about turning this horse’s head loose. That was okay with him because at times, you have to tell some of these jocks two or three times what to do.
Mrs. du Pont was at the test barn before we got there, so she must have left after she got her picture taken. She said she had to see Kelso before she left to go home, and told Fitz that he was doing a real good job taking care of him.
She asked me how my family was and if I needed anything. I told her I was fine, and so was my family. Carl came in the barn and said that Milo was one good rider, and asked me what I thought. I told him that he knew me, that if I didn’t like him, he would have heard before now.
Carl laughed and said Mrs. du Pont is crazy about him. He also said that he noticed Milo was not stick [whip] happy which means banging on a horse when he doesn’t need it. He knew that the first time he rode Kelso, for he never saw him pick the whip up. That’s a good rider.
Carl said we got the [Jockey Club] Gold Cup coming up. Did I think he could hold him on two miles. Sure, he could. That was one race I would have liked to have ridden him. That would have been the joy of my life. But we had enough to do with our new jockey, so I tried to forget about that. But in my mind, maybe one day, Carl would have to call on me, and sure enough, I would be there. Fitz was in my corner, for he said that if he was Kelso’s trainer, and something happened to my jock, if he knew I could make weight, I would be the first person he would pick. I was very grateful to Fitz, for that was the best compliment he ever gave me.
Kelso had twenty days to rest and get his mind on two miles, for that was right down his alley. What had been so good about his training was that he had been eating real good, so I knew he was not worrying about anything.