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…
Now we got the Woodward, and that is about ten days away. This race set him up just right for it. Coming off a mile and a quarter in 2 :00 4/5 was fast at any track, although I thought Count Fleet held the record at 2:00.
Kelso would be ready for the Woodward. While we were in the test barn, Carl came around the corner of the barn and met me at the backside. He wanted to look Kelso over. Carl put his hand on his knee, and ran it down to his ankle, while looking at me and saying that Kelso was some horse.
He wanted to know how I thought Milo rode him. I replied that he did just right. I didn’t know what Carl had told him, but he rode him as if I had told him what to do.
Carl laughed and said, “Dickie, I know you, and I’m pretty sure you had something to say.”
“Well, Carl,” I said, “as long as it’s both you and me telling him what to do, it should be all right because you and I know how this horse runs.”
Carl laughed, and said, “Sometimes, I think I should tell Milo to listen to you, and that way, I know Milo can hear just one way to ride the horse. When we get a little time, I want to talk to you about this subject.”
I told Carl that was fine with me, and I was sure that both of us could help our old buddy, since he has been so good to us all. Carl said, “Yes, he has, and Mrs. du Pont told me about the Cherry Hill Farm across the river from her is for sale, and if Kelso keeps on doing this for me, I might buy that farm.”
I sure wished he would, and I thought Millie would like that old house. I had heard that George Washington had his office in it during the Revolutionary War. It was about 150 acres, and had a nice barn on it. Carl said we should get Kelso ready for the Woodward, and not to tell anyone we’re talking about the farm.
That made me feel just a little better about Carl, knowing that he was thinking about that. Carl had not made a lot of money to do the things he would like to do .. Now things were different, and he had money coming in once a week which was big money to him. I wondered if Kelso retired, and Carl got the farm, maybe he would let me be the farm manager.
Carl came in the next morning. I was walking Kelso, and Fitz was telling him about his dinner last night. He had cleaned his tub and started on his hay. That means one thing: it’s time to get down and dirty. He was going in the Woodward like I wanted him to be, happy and looking down the track to the winner’s circle.
The next day, Carl came early and told me to get my tack and put it on Kelso, so we could get him out before all the other got there. He worked better if the track was empty and there was no horse passing him. We get to the track, and Carl told me to hang on because he heard some horses coming around the turn. As soon as had he said that, Kelso was in the air and lunging down the track.
Carl was trying to get alongside of him so he could grab the reins, but I yelled at him to let him be, that I had him okay. We went down the front side of the training track like a bronco. He got in the turn, and came back to me some, but not much. I was all right, and the only thing that really worried me was that he could easily grab his heel with his quarter, and that would sure mess up everything. I get around the track, and there was Carl, waving at me to pull him up. I pulled him up, and Carl came running up to me, scared crazy that the horse was going to drop me.
He asked if I was alright, and I told him I was. He said, “Dickie, there is one thing I know about you. You sure can ride this horse, and I think he knows it too.”
I got to work that morning, and Fitz was standing at the big door of the barn, and he looked as if something was wrong. I got to him and asked what the matter was. He said that we had to get this horse out of the stall before he kicked down the walls. I tied him up at the door so he wouldn’t kick the walls.
Fitz told me he had heard him at 4:30 this morning, banging on the walls. Every time one of these big wagons would go by the barn, he would stak. Carl got there, and I had just put my tack out. Fitz was telling Carl about what he was doing. Carl yelled at me to get my tack, and to get this horse out before he kills himself. I hollered back that I would be right there.
I grabbed my helmet, saddle and bridle, and away I went. Carl was on the pony, and he was saying to me to make sure I have that yoke in my hand, so he couldn’t drop me. I told Carl not to worry, that he was not going to drop me, and I didn’t need a yoke to hold on. Carl said that he wasn’t shitting me,
Kelso was full of it this morning. I told Carl he could stay here alongside of me until we get to the track Then on the track, he could back off, and let me have Kelso. It worked out alright, but he came close to dropping me, and Carl knew it. We had to be going better than a two minute lick, for he was flying around that track.
We got back to Carl, and he was white as a sheet. Carl knew he almost got me, but I said I had him all the way. Instead of going back to the barn the short way, we took the long way. That really helped him, for it took a lot of fire out of him. He even let me take him out to graze. That night, I stayed at the barn late, just to see if he cleaned up his feed which he did.
The next day, Carl wanted to blow him out a half mile, and then warm up for a mile before
I broke him off. That morning, Carl asked me if I could gallop him just a little slower about a mile before I broke him off. I said I would try and see if I could start on the outside fence, and ease to the center of the track, I might make it. Here goes, I was on the main track at Belmont, and I had it where I could get a slow mile in him. I told Carl I was going to pull him up on the back side, and let him walk about seventy-five feet, start jogging him, and then ease him to the inside. That way, he would not know what I was doing.
It was working. I’m galloping, heading for the half mile pole. He still didn’t know he was going to work, but I’m there, worrying that he did. He was gone, and all I could do was whoa to him and hope he would come back to me. I said to myself that I should turn him loose and see what he did. I’m coming to the quarter pole, and here was where I turned him loose. He felt like he was running in the mud for about a hundred yards. Then he knew I was putting on. He took off like a bullet. He went that half in 46 which pleased me. And I’m sure it didn’t hurt him.
Carl came to me, and asked if when I pulled him up on the backside and started back galloping him, he settled down some. I told him just a little, but he was a smati horse, and you couldn’t fool him. Carl said that if he just runs back to the Stymie and this work, he would not have any trouble. I agreed that was the ticket.
Read the next chapter Kelso wins his second Woodward Stakes