Kelso debuts as a 5-year-old in the Met Mile with Willie Shoemaker, 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…

Here it was, almost race day. I got an overnight, and sure enough, there was Kelso in the Met with [Bill] Shoemaker on him. This was his first time out this year, and he had 133 on him which just made me sick. This jock will think Kelso was all washed up. I know he was not going to run at all, and last night I was thinking that maybe Carl [Hanford] might have something up his sleeve.

Carl knew he was not ready for this race, and if I was thinking right, he was going to tell Shoemaker when the man said go to just fold up on him, let him run the race with a good hold of him. Do not hit him or push him, we are going to give it away. Now that was what I hoped he told him, and then we could go on to the next race. Just don’t hurt him.

Race day was here, and Mrs. du Pont and Carl were there. Nobody was saying a word, and I have never seen it like this. I kept looking at Carl, and he would look at me every now and then, but would not say a word to me.

Mrs. du Pont was not smiling or saying anything. When the man said riders up, Shoemaker looked like a little doll sitting on Kelso. We got to the track, and Fitz [Kelso’s groom] said that Carl wanted me to take hold of him and not turn him loose until you get to the gate.

Shoemaker looked at me and didn’t say a word. I sure wasn’t going to say anything either. So here we were, galloping around the turn, and I pulled him up just short of the half mile pole and turned him around. Walking back to the gate, I was sure wondering what Carl had said to Shoemaker because this jock is not saying anything. He kept looking at me as if he wanted to say something, but he didn’t open his mouth.

All the horses were at the gate, and the assistant starter came over and took Kelso. As I turned around, I looked Shoemaker in the eye, and said, “Take care of this horse, jock.”

When the man said go, Kelso was nowhere to be seen until they hit the turn, and even then I could not pick him out. I got to where I could hear the caller, and I never heard Kelso’s name till they were going down the backside, and then it looked like he was about ten lengths in back of the field. Going round the last turn, I heard the caller say that Kelso was fifth and that he was about ten lengths out of it. Then all I could hear was Carry Back, Merry Ruler and Rullah Red.

Kelso finished [eight] lengths behind.

When I got to where they were unsaddling the horses, the crowd was yelling Kelso’s name. I looked at him when Fitz took hold of him and Shoemaker was taking his tack off. Kelso’s face was covered with dirt, and his eyes were about shut from it.

Fitz looked up at me and said, “This is a damn shame to do this to Kelly. As much as he has done for them, this is the thanks he gets. Kelso, you are still number one with us, and you don’t have to prove a thing.”

They still made us go to the test barn because of him being the heavy favorite in the race. Carl came to the test barn, and I had put the pony in one of the stalls there.

I was walking behind Kelso to see if there was any cut or scrape he had picked up. Carl asked Fitz if Kelso looked okay, and Fitz said yes. He told Fitz he would see him at the barn, but he didn’t look at me or say anything which was a relief.

When I got back to the barn, I told Fitz I would take him and walk him some more. I put the pony away, walked past Carl, and didn’t even look at him.

Kelso and I walked around the shed, and Fitz yelled down at the stall that he was going to the diner to get some coffee. I came around to Kelso’s stall, and Carl was standing by the door. He wanted me to hold up so he could check his shoes. He thought Kelso should have been shod the week before, and asked me to remind him to call Tom the blacksmith to get some new shoes on him. He asked me if Kelso had been drinking a lot of water. I told him no, but he was still a little warm from that rough trip he just had. I didn’t have to say that, but I did. I walked him around one more time, and I heard Carl yell that he would see me in the morning.

What got me is that Mrs. du Pont didn’t come to the barn, and she always was there after a race. So I thought they had told Shoemaker to just take a ride and not to hurt him. I hoped that was what they told him, because I wasn’t ever going to ask.

The next morning, Carl came, and we got all the gallopers out. Fitz took Kelso out on the grass. I went out to my car and wrote what Kelso had done in the race that day. Carl walked by and asked me if was alright. I said I was, and asked Carl the same thing. Then he said that Kelso had come out of the race all right, and we didn’t hurt him. Carl was sure glad of that. But he wasn’t too sure about our new jock. He is just a little too light handed which is good on a lot of horses, but not this one.

I really didn’t know what to say, but I came up with this. Shoemaker’s weight is only 99-100 pounds, and every time Kelso runs, he has to carry all this dead weight. Carl said I was right, but felt we should give Shoemaker a try to see if he could handle this horse. I was waiting for Carl to say something about the Met, but he didn’t. I still believe he gave the race away just to get a race in him which I thought was really dumb.

Read the next chapter: Kelso and the Suburban Handicap