Mrs. du Pont’s aversion to blinkers

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…

Although this book is about Kelso, we did have other good horses in the barn with him at that time. We had a pretty good filly named Hem and Haw. She was by Double Jay. She had run four times for us, and was second four times in a row. Carl [Hanford] knew what she needed, but Mrs. du Pont did not want blinkers on any of her horses. To this day, I don’t know why she disliked blinkers.

Hem and Haw would get to the front at the head of the lane and just wait until the second horse came up on her. She would just run alongside until she got to the wire, and get beat a nose, a head, a neck, a nose.

She ran that way until one day, Carl said, “Take this bitch over to the gate. I want to school her out of the gate, and get a card which okays blinkers.”

Carl found a race for her, a mile and a sixteenth which he thought might be too far for her. He said to put the blinkers under your jacket, just in case Mrs. du Pont came to the race. She didn’t come this day, and I believe the jock who rode her was Larry Adams. Anyway, when the man said go, she went to the front and won by five. So when she got to the winner’s circle, I pulled the blinkers off before she had her picture taken.

Carl told me not to say a word about this, and maybe Mrs. du Pont wouldn’t notice.

Mrs. du Pont did not miss anything, and she saw things no one else did. There was no point trying to pull the wool over her eyes. It was about six months later when we were at the farm getting ready to go to South Carolina. She called me into her office and had this winning picture in her hand.

She stuck it in front of me and said, “Dickie, look at this picture and tell me what is wrong with it.” I told her I didn’t see anything wrong.

“Dickie, you know what’s wrong. You know I hate blinkers, and I never want to see this anymore.”

I started to say something, but she said she didn’t want to hear it, adding that if Carl put them on, she was going to tell him that too. She stormed out of the office, got into her car, and went to the house. I looked at her secretary, Mrs. Jackson, who told me she had never seen her this mad before.

I hoped Carl didn’t think I told her, but Mrs. Jackson said, “She was in her office, so I took this picture back there and laid it on her desk. About five minutes later, I heard her cursing like a sailor, and she told me to get you. That’s all I know about it. I’m sure she is going to say something to Carl.”

I can tell you one thing for certain. No horse ever trained with blinkers since then.

Read the next chapter Kelso wins his second Jockey Club Gold Cup