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…
The stay in Aiken, S.C., was real nice. We all got to rest up, and get away from all the hustle and bustle. I got to meet some real nice people, and got to go to some of the polo games. Some of the best polo players came here, including Prince Charles of the United Kingdom, although I didn’t get to meet him. I worked Kelso at the Aiken trails, and this was the time when all the big outfits get to work all their babies, and see what they are made of.
They had a lead pony race, and all the trainers had to ride their ponies. Carl [Hanford] rode our pony, and finished dead last. That pony couldn’t outrun me. It was all fun and games, and everybody liked it. After the trails that day, we had a barbeque with all the good stuff. All the owners of the big outfits were there, and they sure did have a good time with all us peons (Just kidding).
They were real nice people, and seemed just like plain folks. The last few days we had in Aiken, we painted all of the water buckets, feed tubs, and wall cabinets, for we wanted to look good when we got back to Belmont, N.Y. We were all rested up, and couldn’t wait to get started on our horses. We had some nice two year olds and three year old maidens that never started.
We had this three year old whose name was Without Fail, and he sure could run. I really liked him, for he was a big horse, about 16.3 hands high. He was by the leading sire at that time. There was a filly that was a half-sister to My Dear Girl, but my memory is not so good about the sires and dams of the other horses we had. All that sticks with me is Kelso, and the fun I had just being there. The barn we were in was the old Hertz barn that was over the tunnel in the stable grounds. It was one of the nicest barns on the grounds. We had some real nice grass down the hill that we saved for Kelso, and that was where you could find me and Kelso everyday. He loved it.
It was now close to the end of April [back in New York], and Kelso was starting to feel his oats by bucking and playing on the track, and you sure better be tied onto him because he might just bust your butt. I went to the place where all of the trainers and agents hang out, drinking coffee and putting their horses in for the next day of racing. They also name the riders who will be on their horses. While I was there, I noticed [Eddie Arcaro’s jockey agent] Bones LaBoyne talking to someone in a car just outside the door. I walked around the side of the car to see who it was, and as I turned to walk away, Bones yelled at me to come over to the car.
When I got to where I could see, I heard another voice. It was Eddie Arcaro. He stuck his hand out the window, shook hands with me, and asked how the big horse was doing. I stood there, just trying to think of something to say.
Eddie said, “Dickie, you think maybe we can hold him at the finish so he won’t win by ten? We have got to try to keep as much weight off him as we can, and also I don’t want to get him beat by trying to slow him down either.”
“Eddie,” I said, “this horse is older and stronger, and he knows the ropes now, so it’s going to be tough. Don’t tell Carl I was talking to you and Bones, because I told Carl I wouldn’t tell you what to do on this horse. But, if you ask me, I’m going to tell you and help you as much as I can. I know Frank the clocker at the track real good, and if I ask him real nice, he might slow the clock down when I work him, and that might keep some of the weight off him by not seeming to work him so fast.”
Eddie told me, “Don’t worry. Bones won’t tell Carl you were talking to me, and if he does, you can talk to anyone you want to, Dickie. Have you got a minute? Come on. Let’s take a ride over the grandstand. I want to talk to you about this horse. I shouldn’t have to say this, but I like to hear what you think, and from what I’ve heard about you, you are not a dummy when it comes to this horse. Whatever you tell me, Carl doesn’t have to know. This doesn’t mean I won’t listen to Carl. You and I will keep in touch because it sure would help me on this horse. I know [Tommy] Trotter [[Trotter was the racing official in New York who assigned weights in handicap races]] will load him up this year, so we sure have to think of ways to do this. Dickie, the only way they are going to beat this horse is orders and weight, and we have to watch both of them. Right? I’m not saying that Carl won’t give me the right stuff to win with Kelso, but sometimes, you have to use your common sense, and that works most of the time, don’t you think so, Dickie?”
I said, “That’s all it takes when you have a horse that will do anything you ask.”
At this time, I didn’t know what kind of race we were going in, and Carl didn’t either. He came over to Fitz, and asked him if he was cleaning up his feed. Fitz said he would leave a little in the morning, but noon and night feed, he licks the plate clean.
The next morning, Carl and I were with some young horses, just letting them look around the stable grounds, when we came upon Woody Stevens. He asked Carl if Kelso was ready this year, and there I go, opening my big mouth, and telling him that Kelso was always ready. Carl turned to me, and looked like he was going to say something about here we go again with that mouth of yours.
I knew Woody real good, and could kid with him, but Carl didn’t know that. Anyway, we got back to the barn, and Carl said that he had to find a race for this horse before we train him right past a race. I told him not to worry, that when he found a race, Kelso would be ready. Then he looked at me, and said that someone told him that I was talking to Eddie Arcaro and Bones at the coffee hut. I said that I just happened to run into them, and they just wanted to know how everything was going, that’s all. When Carl asked if that was all, I told him that he had made me promise I wouldn’t tell Eddie what to do, and I wouldn’t.
That afternoon, Carl came to the barn, and told me that there was an allowance race at seven eighths of a mile which he thought might be okay for him for the first time out this year. He said that he was going to put him in it, and see what was going to be in there with him. That race was May 19, and here it was, May 11. I said to Carl that all we needed to do was to blow him out and run him.
Carl replied, “There you go again, telling me what to do with Kelso, but that’s okay with me because that was what I was going to do anyway. You must have been reading my mind, Dickie, for I can always tell what you are thinking when it comes to this horse.”
I told Carl, “Not at all. I know you have been thinking about those three handicap races, the Met, Suburban and Brooklyn. Now I can open my mouth just a little. I heard you and Mrs. du Pont talking about it a week ago, and she thought that was asking too much out of him. Well, I’m going to say this, Carl. You know I can tell more about this horse than anybody, and I know you can too. We are a team, and we’re supposed to let each of us say something, but I know that you are the boss, and what you say goes. Right?”
“Yes, Dickie,” he said, “that is the way we should be, one big family. I know that you, all my exercise boys and grooms care about Kelso, and I thank all of you. But I’m still the trainer, and Mrs. du Pont owns this horse. Sometimes, she’ll tell me what to do, and while I don’t care for it, I have to take it from her. But you are going to drive me crazy about what we should do with this horse, so all I ask of you people is just let it be, for I think I can handle it.”
Read the next chapter Kelso’s 4-year-old debut