Milo Valenzuela jumps in the saddle for Kelso, 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…

Going back to New York, Carl told me to make sure I was there tomorrow before noon because Milo Valenzuela and George Holland, his agent, were going to be there. Carl [Hanford] wanted me to meet Milo and his agent so we could hurry up and find a rider.

Last week, my buddies had been saying that Kelso might be running out of all that get up and go. I told them no way, and they knew that I knew what I’m talking about when it comes to this horse. He has been working and training real good. He has been eating well, and has not had the colic in six weeks which was good for him. I hoped that this new jock could get the job done, and I thought he would.

That night, I could not get to sleep, just trying to think of something to say to Milo V. Carl said I might have a little trouble understanding him. All I hoped was that he could understand me, but I thought he would, for George Holland, his agent, would help us.

We were waiting that morning, and 10:30, here they come. Milo went to Carl first, stuck his hand out, and Carl shook hands with him. George came over to me and introduced himself.

Then Milo turned to me, and said, “You must be Dickie.” I told him he was right. Carl said we should go into the office.

George and Carl were heading in the door, but Milo was at the first stall, standing there. He said, “I bet this is Kelso.”

I said, “How did you know?”

He answered, “He turn to the back of the stall like a good horse does.”

[Kelso’s groom] Fitz said, “He’s not much for anyone petting him.”

Fitz said to take Milo into the office. Milo said Kelso sure looks good, and went inside.

Fitz told me, “That is one hell of a rider there. I know him, I’ve seen him ride. Our worries are over, Dickie, if he rides him.”

I hoped he was right, and we went into the office. I heard Carl tell George that I broke Kelso and have been with him ever since, so he thought I knew him better than anyone. He also said that I would tell them that Kelso talks to me all the time, so if they wanted to know what he said, just to ask Dickie. Milo and George started to laugh, and even old Fitz outside joined in.

“Dickie is going to be all right with Milo,” George said.

Carl said we could talk some more when we got to Saratoga. Then Fitz asked me if I was going to be around today, for he wanted me to help him pick up the trunks and put them down at the end of the barn.

Meanwhile, George and Milo were walking out to their car, and Milo asked me to come over. I went to the car, and Milo asked if Kelso talked to me. I said he sure did, and Kelso said he wanted to see me later. When I saw him, I was going to tell him that you might be his next rider.

Milo said, “Tell him I spoke to Eddie [Arcaro] about him, and he said that Kelso was the best horse he has ever ridden, and that was enough for me. So tell him, I’ll be glad to ride him.” Then he laughed and said, “I’m a better rider than Eddie.”

“Milo,” I said, “let me tell you this, and you can take it to the bank. If this horse likes you, and you ride him just like I tell you, you won’t get beat. He will run his ass off for you. Now I don’t mean to not listen to Carl, but what I mean is what you do with those hands. Kelso wants you to reach down, grab him, and to hold him together. You can cluck to him and get just about all the run you want out of him than you can by banging on him. I’m not telling you not to hit, but I’m saying don’t beat him up because he does not like that at all.”

Read the next chapter Kelso goes to Saratoga