Kelso’s 4-year-old debut, 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…

Here it was, a day before the first race of the year for Kelso, and Carl [Hanford] was really nervous, trying real hard to get Kelso up to the three toughest races of his life. Carl said to take him around to the three eighths’ pole, snap him away there, and let him run. Kelso knew he was going to break at that pole as much as I did.

When I dropped him down on the rail at the three eighths pole, he took off so fast that all I did was sit there and let him do his thing. But at the eighth pole, I said whoa to him, and tried to ease him just a little, but it didn’t work. He went the three eighths in 34.3, and galloped the half mile in 47. When I pulled him up, stood him out, and started back to meet Carl on the pony, he began to buck, and wanted to rear up and wheel around. Carl said that he thought he was going to buck me off, and was ready to have a heart attack.

We made it back okay, and the next day he came out of his stall like a madman. Carl said to put the tack on him so at least, he wouldn’t get loose with me on him. I rode him around the shed row for about forty-five minutes, and put him in his stall. Kelso knew that he was going to run that day, and he just stayed at his stall door all day until it came time to go to the paddock.

When we got to the paddock, he was as quiet as a mouse, and when he was like that, all that he had on his mind was running. I knew that there were two or three horses that could run with Kelso for about a half mile, but that was all. Long Gone John liked three quarters of a mile to seven furlongs, and that horse, Gyro, looked like he had some speed, but Eddie [Arcaro] said that he had looked at all the horses in the racing form, and felt that there was nothing in there to worry about.

On the way to the gate, Eddie asked me if he could get him left just a little at the start, and I told him that being that he was on the outside, we could stay back while they loaded, and if everybody was standing all right, when Kelso goes in, the starter will throw the latch on them, and all you have to do is sit still. Kelso would come right back to him, and he could let them go for a quarter mile. Then start changing holds on him, and he would start making his move. Eddie told me that he didn’t want to go out in this race breaking any track records and win by ten, for if we did that, [Tommy] Trotter would load him up [in weight] in the next race.

Well, we were on our way to the gate, while the starters were loading the other horses in, and when they had one more to go, I started to walk up to the gate. All of a sudden, the starter was yelling at me to get my horse up here, so I stepped up our pace just a little.

Eddie said, “Dickie, get on up there.”

I got to the gate, and the man got a hold of Kelso, who was the last to load, and Eddie said that we did this just right. The man said go as soon as they slammed the back door on him, so Eddie never hustled him at all.

Kelso was right there with them all the way around the turn, and at the quarter pole, he was head and head with some horse, although I couldn’t tell who it was, and behind him was another horse who looked liked he was going to run by Kelso and the other horse in front. Being over on the other side of the track, you couldn’t tell who was who, but I could keep my eye on Kelso and see just how he was running. I knew that Eddie was just playing with these other horses, but I didn’t want him to mess up and get beat by trying not to win by too much.

Kelso came home, just galloping. I didn’t get to see Eddie after the race, but I did see him the next afternoon at the track office.

He and Bones [Arcaro’s jockey agent] were there on business, and I didn’t want to bother them, but Eddie looked over where I was, and when he saw me, he came over and told me that he would be right back and to wait here which was okay with me. Then he and Bones went to the office door.

Eddie stopped and yelled at me to come over. When I got to the door to see what he wanted, I looked inside, and there stood Carl, looking right at me and Eddie. Eddie said that it would be just a few minutes more for him to finish, so he would see me at the coffee shop in twenty minutes. Then he went inside and shut the door.

All I could think about was what Carl would think about me and Eddie talking. I went over to the coffee shop and sat. Eddie, Bones and Carl came over.

Eddie said, “Dickie, how is our old buddy today? I hope he is ready to go for the three big ones.”

When he said that, I looked at Carl, and he nodded his head as if to say yes. I knew which big three he was talking about.

Eddie said, “Dickie, we’ve been in there talking about the Met, Suburban and Brooklyn.”

I heard Carl say, “Eddie said you think he is the kind of horse that can handle those three races.”

I said yes, and Eddie said, “Dickie, I think he can too.”

Carl came around the table, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “There is one thing I do know. Dickie knows this horse, and does everything but sleep with him.”

Carl thought this seven eighths mile race was real good for him, and we got 10-11 days to the Met. He was sure he could handle the mile race. I liked him saying this before a race, but I couldn’t help but think we got a horse and have no idea good he really is. It almost felt like we would run him until we could find someone who could beat him.

I told Carl that I thought if Tommy Trotter didn’t put the grandstand on him and break him down, this horse could have his way here at Belmont or the whole east coast which sure covered a awful lot of ground.

We walked Kelso for two days after that which was a mistake because he almost tore down the barn, playing, kicking the walls, and biting [his groom] Bill [Hall]. He was one tough horse, and ready to go.

Carl said to take him to the track the next day and he was ready. I was glad that I was young and fit because you would not be able to handle him if you weren’t. I took hold of him real good that day, and I dared not change holds on him. He would have been gone with the wind. That was the way it was for ten days right up to the day of the Met.

Read the next chapter Kelso and the Met Mile