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 Kelso for two days [after the Whitney], and he was a handful. I wanted to take him out, and let him graze, but he was just too damn high for that. I sure didn’t want him to get loose, for now that he had the Whitney under our belt, we had to start getting him ready for the Suburban, and I thought he was doing real good. He had been eating, and had settled down some, not pulling me out of the saddle which was what I liked to see him do. When you got two good workouts from him, and it is only four or five days to the race, that is when he starts getting tough, and you have got to watch every move he makes.
He could get so playful coming up to a race that there was no way you could fall asleep on him. We had two days until the Suburban, and from what I saw, he was fit and ready to go. He had time to hack around the jumps, and did some jogging which would keep him from being so tight, for I wanted to keep him happy right up to the race. If you could keep him happy and not push him around, he would train better, eat better, and be more relaxed.
It was race day, and I thought he came up to this race better than all of them. Here it was, July 4, and we had already won just about all the big races in the east (not that I thought we should start going out west). We had started out by winning three races in a row in 1961, and now we were trying to make it four. [Kelso’s groom] Bill asked me to tie a yellow ribbon on him, and we would be ready to head over to the paddock.
“Horses for the Suburban Handicap, please bring your horse to the paddock.”
That was what we were waiting to hear. Even Kelso heard this, and we were ready to go get the money. Kelso was very quiet going to the paddock, and that was a good omen for him. He seemed to be thinking with his head up, and his ears were standing up like two flagpoles. Bill was calm too, and I was on the pony, turning around in the saddle, just looking at the horse to make sure I didn’t see any cow kicking.
When we got there, Mrs. du Pont, Carl [Hanford] and Eddie [Arcaro] were at the paddock stall.
“Dickie, how is he?”
“He’s just fine, Mrs., and he’s ready to go.” Bill said,
“Mrs. du Pont, that’s all Dickie’s been doing for the last two days, talking with this horse. Now don’t ask me what Kelso said, for you’ll have to ask Dickie.”
When Bill told Mrs. du Pont all this, she asked what Kelso said. Bill replied, “Now don’t get Dickie started because he won’t stop talking.”
Eddie started to laugh, and asked me, “Do you talk to the old man?”
“I sure do, and so far, all he had to say was good, so let it be at that. Eddie, all you have to do is take a long hold and a deep seat, and he will take you home.”
Mrs. du Pont went crazy when I told Eddie that, and even Carl smiled, “You are too much, Dickie.”
Eddie said, “He sure is.”
The man said riders up, and as soon as he heard that, Kelso jumped and started to play in the paddock. While he was playing and jumping around, he managed to step on Bill’s foot, and I could see the pain on Bill’s face, and almost feel the pain myself. Carl came over to throw Eddie up, and I asked Bill if he was all right. Bill said that he thought he would make it. I started to smile a little to keep from laughing, and Carl saw me and started to laugh. Well, Bill didn’t think it was so funny, walked over to the pony, and handed Kelso to me.
Eddie said, “You guys shouldn’t laugh at Bill. He might hit you both.”
We got to the gate, and Eddie said, “Dickie, if this horse wins the race, I won’t have a word to say, because I have never been on a horse this good, and that’s saying a mouthful. I would like to think I have been on the best, but never have been on one who has as big a heart as he has.”
The handler came, got him, and as soon as I turned the pony around, everything seemed to be in slow motion. Eddie had just said something to me that I knew he had never said before, so I didn’t know if I had heard him right or not. I almost forgot that Kelso was in the gate.
They’re off! Kelso broke right there with the leaders. Maybe he was about two lengths behind the lead horse. I couldn’t tell who was in front, but I just kept my eyes on Kelso. I heard the caller say that Kelso had taken the lead around the far turn, and I could see that he was going to win from where I was, even though it seemed miles away. Coming down the home stretch, I heard the caller say Nickel Boy and Talent Show, but Kelso was out in front by four or five lengths and won with speed to spare.
I sat there on the pony, and I knew that Eddie was the best rider of all times, and had ridden the best, but here I was, hearing what he had just said, and feeling so grateful that a country boy like myself was here to see racing history being made. The public really loved watching him run and win. I was so proud of him, He had made the people that were with him look real good, and I hoped they all appreciated him, because I sure did.
While Eddie was pulling him up around the tum, he yelled at me, “That’s what I mean,” and took off to the winner’s circle with me right behind him. I get there, and the track policeman took hold of the pony so I could get in the picture. Mrs. du Pont and [her daughter] Lana were right there, and I got one of the biggest hugs a man could handle. She was so happy.
Carl came over, grabbed my hand, and said, “I’ve never seen this kind of horse, he is too much. Everybody who works around here thinks we know something they don’t, and they can’t figure this horse out. He runs short, he runs long, and he carries weight no other horse can. The only thing I can tell them is that he’s a super horse.”
I thought this would make them stop and think before trying to beat him.
Eddie hasn’t lost a race on him yet, and if he could stay on him, I didn’t think he could be beaten.
Read the next chapter Kelso completes the New York Handicap Triple Crown with a win in the Brooklyn