Kelso’s stakes debut in Chicago, 1960

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…

Kelso jumped on that plane like he had been doing it all his life. He was a real good shipper, for he always did what you asked which is when you can tell you have got yourself a real good horse. As for a jockey, there is nothing better than riding a horse in a race, and when it is time to make your move, you ask for it, and the horse gives you what you want. There is no better feeling than that whether it’s a $100,000 race or a claiming race.

After Kelso won that race at the Big A [Aqueduct], we went back to the farm about July 18, and that was where all this stuff came up about going to Arlington Park, and running him in the Classic. I did not go out there with him. My wife was about to have my first son, and Mrs. du Pont told me that they would be out there three or four days, so I stayed on the farm. I took him to the airport in Philly, and put him on the plane for the first time. He was a real good sport about it.

They arrived at Arlington okay, and I’m home at the farm, and I was wondering who was going to get on him. I knew that when he was feeling sharp, he would try you out, and if you didn’t know him, he would drop you in a flash by wheeling, and down you go. Well, he didn’t, for he went like a good horse. Steve Brooks was picked to ride him, and I thought he was alright except for one thing: he hit horses too hard with his whip in races, and sometimes he would gut one, and you never had to do that with Kelso.

Anyway, it was a bad race, and all I know is what Steve Brooks said. He was eighth, and got beat seven or eight lengths. He later told Hanford he had a real nice horse, and that he got a bad break, getting caught behind a wall of horses, so he could not move anywhere on the track. Bull! He came back and won six in a row.

When Carl came back, he did talk to me, believe it or not, and he didn’t like the way Brooks rode him. He said, “Dickie, we got back to the barn, and Bill [Kelso’s groom] could not handle him, for he was so high and fresh, and couldn’t wait to get back here.”

I overheard Carl and Mrs. du Pont talking about a race at Monmouth. What race I didn’t know until the next day, and it was the Choice Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth. (I know I sound like I’m the trainer, even though I wasn’t, but in my own little way, I felt I was, and that I was doing a good job.)

When they got back from Illinois, we were going to walk him for two more days, and then start galloping him up to the race at the farm. It was getting close to the running time of the race, and we had to find a jockey. I know one thing, Carl didn’t want Hartack because he was still mad about New York when he rode Tompion in the Travers, and didn’t want to ride Kelso.

Later, [Hartack] thought he could beat Kelso with Tompion. (Bullshit!)

Carl looked around, and said he would bite the bullet and let Hartack ride him. I wanted to say something about that, but I knew Carl had enough on his mind without having to listen to me, and if I had been the trainer, I would have done the same thing. I felt sorry for Carl, and I really wanted to help him in anyway I could, because deep down, I really liked him, and I know he liked me, but would never say so which was okay.

Kelso was galloping at the farm. He was so relaxed there, and I got to take him out to the paddock to graze which he loved. He would stand and look at me, as if to say, “Dickie, turn me loose, and let me run around here for just ten minutes, and I will thank you and love you for the rest of my life.”

That’s what I can almost hear him say. I knew my buddy would never be turned out as long as he was in training, and that was what I didn’t like or understand. I knew as long as I was with Kelso, the poor horse looked at four walls, and they wonder how come he got the colic so often. When he was at the track, I would come back in the afternoon, and take him out of the stall to graze. There was a lot of good grass at Belmont, so we could get out just about every day.

Read the next chapter: Kelso and the Choice Stakes at Monmouth Park