Kelso wins the Jockey Club Gold Cup, 1961

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…

Almost three weeks later [after the winning Woodward], we were going for the Jockey Club Gold Cup at two miles [at Aqueduct], and Kelso loves that distance. He would just go out there and gallop two fast miles, come back, and be ready to go the next day. I got an overnight to see who was in there.

Carl [Hanford] came in that afternoon, and he said that there was nothing in the race that could run with him. I took a look at Hillsborough, a nice looking horse who seemed fit and ready to go. I went back to the barn, told Carl I had seen Hillsborough who looked pretty good.

Carl laughed and said it was going to take more than looks to beat him tomorrow or just because they say he likes this two mile race. I agreed with Carl, for I didn’t think there was a horse on the track that could go two miles with our old friend.

I was real uptight the night before the race, and could not get to sleep. I wanted to drive out to the track, but didn’t let myself go. I told myself to settle down, that I had been here before. The next morning, I left at 4:30 A.M., and went to the barn. Our night watchman was feeding, and I didn’t want Kelso to see me because he would think something was going on, and would back off his feed. So I went to the diner, and had my ham and eggs, while I talked to Woody Stephens.

He asked me what we were going to do today, and I said, “Win.”

Woody said that there was no way these horses in the race could even start to go with Kelso. He added that he had been around a long time, and he hadn’t seen one like him. He was one tough horse.

I got to the barn, and it was still early in the morning. Carl was sitting in the shed row. At first, I thought something was wrong, but there wasn’t. Carl was uptight too. Bill was in the stall, getting ready to put the tack on Kelso.

Carl wanted to get him out in the dark and on the training track before daylight. I didn’t think we should get him out in the dark because he was going to see all kinds of bogeys out there. So Carl decided that I was right, and we would wait until daybreak. I got on him in the shed, and walked about twenty minutes until I could just see a little light out there. I yelled at Carl to let him know I was ready. We got to the track, and could see real good.

I started to gallop off, and here comes a horse that is loose. I could hear Carl yelling that there was a loose horse behind me. I gave Kelso a kick, and took off down the track so the loose horse wouldn’t get next to me and Kelso. By the time I hit the backside of the track, we were all by ourselves.

We got to the front side of the track, and Carl yelled at me to pull him up. I did, and Carl came running up to us, telling me that we should get back to the barn before we got killed out here. We got back to the barn, and Carl was telling Bill about the loose horse that ran up on Kelso’s ass. He didn’t know if I had heard him yelling. But I had which was why it didn’t take long to go around the track to get back to you.

Anyway, we were okay, and I settled down some. We got the rest of the horses out. I got the tack clean, and helped Bill rake up and clean all the webbing and wall boxes. We wanted the barn to look nice when Mrs. du Pont came.

About ten or eleven A.M., I went down to the clubhouse to get a sandwich. While I was on my way back to the barn, I ran into Eddie [Arcaro] getting out of his car. He didn’t see me, and I didn’t want to bother him, but I just couldn’t help myself. I yelled at him, and when he turned around and saw me, he started walking over.

“How is our horse doing? Fine, I hope. I sure hope he can handle the two miles better than me. Man, I’m getting too old for this. I’m not like I used to be. Here I am, going to the jock room this early to get a rub down. I rode a horse the other day and had to ride my ass off. I know Carl has plans for this horse next year, Dickie, but I don’t think I’m going to be riding. Time will always catch up with you, and I feel it every day. But I know our old buddy won’t let me work too hard.”

I said, “I’ve watched you ride a lot lately, and man, you can still get the job done. Don’t worry about a thing, Eddie. Go get that rubdown, and I’ll see you later in the winner’s circle. Okay?”

“You got it, Dickie.”

I left and went back to the barn, never thinking about what he said.

Carl was still at the barn, and asked me if I wanted to go home to change clothes. I told him I had clothes in the office, so I had no need to do that.

We got to the paddock, and Mrs. du Pont was there, talking with Eddie. Bill walked Kelso into the stall, and Eddie came over to him and patted him on the neck.

Mrs. du Pont said, “Carl, did you hear the people here hollering Kelso #1? Eddie said he had never heard people yell that much over a horse, for they sure love him, and I know he has made so many people happy.”

The man said riders up. Carl and I walked away from the stall because the horse in the next one over was jumping and rearing and got everybody nervous. I think the horse was Prince Isle. Carl told Bill to take Kelso into the walking ring.

We get out on the track, and Kelso is calm and looking all around. He stopped and looked up into the stands, and everyone started to clap and call his name. Eddie waved at the crowd and me too. It was really something, this day. Kelso warmed up, and was still real quiet, as if he was thinking how to get the job done.

They loaded up all of them, and I looked at Eddie and Kelso and the horse on the outside of him who had been jumping around. He still had not settled down. The man said go, and Kelso broke right there with them. The next call I heard was that Kelso had taken the lead. He went around the first time, and I could see Eddie was just sitting there.

I said to myself, “Just sit tight, Eddie, and he will take you home early.”

Going down the backside, all I could see was Kelso out in front. Hillsborough was trying to get to him, but when they got to the quarter pole, Kelso just seemed to be galloping. He came by me, and all I could hear was the people in the grandstand. They made so much noise that you could not hear yourself think.

From where I was, I saw a horse fall just past the wire, but I knew it wasn’t Kelso. The horse that fell was Hillsborough. He was so tired that he could not hold himself up. He got up, walked over to the outside fence, hung his head over the rail, and waited for someone to come and get him. I took off down the front side of the track, and by the time I reached Eddie and Kelso, they were going to the winner’s circle to get their picture taken. I could not find anyone to hold my pony, so I missed that photo.

Read the next chapter: Kelso arrives at Laurel Park for the D.C. International at Laurel Park