Kelso returns to Belmont, 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…

Saratoga had closed, and everybody was back [at Belmont]. The days were still warm and we had a lot of rain. Carl [Hanford] told me that he was going to put him in the Stymie [at Aqueduct], and that was a 25K race. I asked Carl if Milo [Valenzuela] was going to ride him. Carl said he sure hoped so. Otherwise, this horse was going to start getting sour if we kept changing riders on him.

Here we go again, me and my big mouth. I said, “Carl, it’s not the horse. It’s the jock who doesn’t know this horse. Don could have galloped in that race at Atlantic City. When he turned for home that day, he just dropped his head, and Kelso thought it was time to pull up. When I got to that horse, he didn’t seem tired at all. Don said that when he asked him to run, he just backed up. Carl, you know that is not like him at all.”

Carl said, “Maybe he is getting smart, and he knows he doesn’t have to run that hard anymore.”

I told Carl that he was wrong about him, that this horse would never do that. Carl decided to get back to the drawing board and win some races with Milo.

The Stymie was here, and I knew this horse was ready. I didn’t care who rode him, just so long as he didn’t drop his head. At the paddock, there was Mrs. du Pont and Carl talking. I couldn’t tell what they were saying, but Mrs. du Pont didn’t look too happy. We must have been there ten minutes or so, and there was no sign of Milo. All the other riders were out, but no Milo.

I told Carl he was on his way, for I had seen him over at the tunnel door. He got there, and Carl was mad, telling him to get going or we would be late. Milo said that they would wait for us, and I could tell Carl didn’t like that answer at all.

I looked at Carl, he looked at me, shaking his head. Milo comes up alongside me and said, “What’s the matter with your boss?”

I said, “He thought you got lost getting to the paddock.”

When Milo asked what happened down at Atlantic City, I said, “He got a bad ride. To start with, he dropped this horse’s head, and you can’t do that to this horse. Milo, do you remember what Eddie [Arcaro] told you?”

Milo said, “Yes. And I do what he said.”

I added, “Just don’t ever turn him loose. I don’t want to keep on saying that but I can’t help it.”

I asked Milo what Carl had told him to do. Milo said that he should let him break with them, and if he wants to take the lead, let him. I told Milo that means that if he pulls you to the front, let him go, but please don’t drive him to the front.

Milo laughed and told me not to worry, that he knew what he meant. That made me feel bad that I had said that. Maybe he would think I don’t think he understands what I’m saying. I just wanted to make sure he did understand. He was in there with a horse that had lots of heart, but he would try you. But I wasn’t sure he could handle Kelso.

They break, and Kelso was right there. He went to the front, while Milo just sat there, not moving, while Kelso took him home. He won by 2 or 3 lengths. Milo was happy, and so were Carl and I, Fitz and Mrs. du Pont.

We had found a rider who fit him to a tee, and I sure hoped we wouldn’t lose him. Milo and Carl were talking going down to the jock room, and I could almost tell you what Carl was talking to him about. He was telling him that he did a good job. He rode him the way he was told.

Read the next chapter Preparing Kelso for the Woodward Stakes