Kelso in Saratoga, 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 finally got to Saratoga, and the nights there were nice and cool, so Kelso loved it. Carl [Hanford] asked me if I got to talk to Milo [Valenzuela], and I told him I had. Yes, I had told him what this horse was like, and Eddie [Arcaro] had told him the same thing, so he should be okay.

Carl said, “Dickie, I sure hope so. Mrs. du Pont called me last night, and she is just a little bit worried about these California riders. She didn’t say she disliked them all, just a few of them. I think she has been talking to some of her friends, and will believe anything they say sometimes. There is a race coming up here on the grass. It’s an allowance race. It will be a good one for Milo to get a feel for him. Since it’s a mile and a sixteenth, I think he will have an easy ride.”

The air was cool the next morning, we took him out for a gallop. He walked out there, nice and calm. When we got to the track, I asked him to go. He bucked and farted all the way around the track. Coming off the track, he sure did try to get me off, but he didn’t because he knew he had the master on his back. He settled down when I got to the barn. I told [his groom] Fitz to watch him when he took the bridle off.

I told him to put the halter on first, and then pull the bridle off. Carl came over and helped him with the bridle, saying that all we needed was for him to get loose. Carl said the race was four days off. He wanted to blow him out the day after tomorrow, walk him the next, and run him the day after. He wanted to see how that worked for him.

Race day was here and he was ready. I got over to the jocks’ room to see Milo, but he wasn’t in yet. I started back to the barn, and on my way out, I saw Milo and [his agent] George coming my way. We stopped at the end of the parking lot, and Milo came over and asked how the big horse was.

I told him, “You better get tied on because he is ready. You remember what I said about those hands.”

George asked, “What did you tell him?”

I answered, “I told him to hold this horse together, and how to get the most run out of him without beating him to death.”

George said, “That’s what Milo was telling me about. He said that if he rides this horse like you say, he will be okay. Milo will find out more when he rides him, and I think that’s better than someone telling you, so let’s see what happens. Also, Milo told me he had a talk with Eddie, and he told him just about the same you did.”

Milo’s agent said to me the day of the race that [handicapper] Tommy Trotter is going to load him up [in weight] if he starts winning and makes everything look easy. I knew he would do that, and I wanted to tell Milo to try not to win by too much, if he could help it. But I wouldn’t say that until I could see if he could handle him okay first. George agreed with me, saying that we don’t want him to get beat by doing that.

We waited until the man said riders up. [His groom] Fitz took Kelso to the walking path under the trees. I was way down on the other end, and Kelso could not see the pony at first. He started looking and whinnying at once. I went down the path the wrong way so I could get to him before he started to act up. He saw the pony coming, and began to settle down. We got to the track, and Fitz handed him to me. We jogged down the track to catch the other horses.

We got to the track last, and Carl yelled to get him up there. When we got on the grass, and I went the wrong way galloping, Kelso started crow hopping and playing.

Milo said, “Dickie, what’s he doing?”

I said, “He is just playing, so get tied on before the man says go because he is going to be long gone. Just sit there, and he will run his own race. You will see what I mean.”

They were all in the gate, and Kelso was not moving a hair. When they broke, Kelso was right there with them. It looked like Call the Witness and Kelso were head and head, and I knew Milo had not moved on him, that he was just letting him run his own race. When they got to the 3/8 pole, Kelso took the lead, and Milo was just sitting there. He said that at the 1/8 pole, he shook the whip at him, and reached up and got another hold of him to see what he would do.

“Dickie,” Milo said, “you and Eddie were right. He took off, and when I said whoa to him, he came right back to me. It was like I was out in the morning working him.”

I was sure glad to hear Milo say that because I knew that Milo was trying to see what he could learn about this horse, and that was good. Carl was talking to Mrs. du Pont, and Fitz heard him talking about the United Nations at Atlantic City.

Read the next chapter Kelso returns to New Jersey