Shoemaker’s Last Ride on 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…

I noticed that Carl [Hanford] put [Bill Shoemaker] back on [Kelso] in the [Monmouth Handicap] at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. I also noticed that Carry Back and Beau Purple were in there, as well as some other nice ones. I told Carl it looks like the same bunch of horses up there. We got down to Monmouth and we were in the receiving barn.

All my buddies were there. Frank, one of my buddies who wanted to find a jock to fit Kelso, yelled, “Dickie, I see you still got that jock on him.”

Carl was standing at the stall when he yelled that at me. Carl asked who was doing all the shouting, and I told him that was Frank, the exercise boy who works for Barney Ryan. He and I were trying to find a jock to fit Kelso. Carl laughed and asked if we had come up with anyone. Not yet, but we did say something about Milo Valenzuela the other day. I told Carl that he would be a good choice.

Carl said, “I’m way ahead of you this time, Dickie. I talked to his agent, and he said he would talk to Milo about it. So when Shoemaker gets off him after this race, he’s finished riding him. When we get back to New York, Milo will stop in the barn to see me.”

Carl had talked to Mrs. du Pont about Shoemaker, and she was very upset to hear that he did not fit Kelso. She thought that he was such a fine rider, and it was going to be hard to tell the greatest jockey in the U.S.A. that he didn’t fit the horse. She was glad it was going to be Carl and not her. Mrs. du Pont was dumbfounded, and was sure people would think she was nuts for changing jockeys.

Kelso and [his groom] Fitz came into the paddock, and Kelso looked real good. My pony was acting up for some reason. I told Carl that I was going to get off of him. Carl wanted to know what the hell was wrong with the pony, that he had never seen him act that way. When I got off, he settled down. Carl tacked up Kelso, and Mrs. du Pont was talking to Shoemaker. When I got on the pony, he was all right. I had no idea what had happened to him. Carl said to take Kelso from Fitz when I put Shoemaker on him. That way the pony will settle down. Carl was right. The pony calmed down real good as soon as Kelso was at his side.

Shoemaker said to me on the way to the gate, “I sure hope I can get the job done today because this is going to be my last ride on him, win or lose. I’m going back to California, and I’m sure you can get someone that can ride this horse. I’ve been on horses before that just wouldn’t run for me, so I told Carl this morning.”

Well, I was glad to hear that, and I knew Carl was too. Mrs. du Pont would be pleased to know he came up with the decision on not fitting Kelso.

At the gate, the man took Kelso, and he was #5. All the horses were in, but the #2 horse was banging on the gate, and the starter yelled for someone to get next to #2’s head. They were off, and Kelso didn’t break so good, but that was okay. I saw Hitting Away go to the lead, and I was watching for Beau Purple, but couldn’t tell where he was. Beau Purple caught Hitting Away, and they were not waiting for anyone. Beau Purple finished off Hitting Away, and both Kelso and Carry Back were about four or five lengths back of him. Kelso was in front of Carry Back, and I was saying to myself that Shoemaker should let the horse go.

I looked and there went Carry Back, passing Kelso on the outside. Me? I’m ready to jump off the pony, I was so mad. What the hell was Shoemaker thinking? He should have made his move about 200 yards back. Carry Back was running for his rider, [John] Rotz, and Shoemaker was going to make it too late for Kelso. That was just what he did because when he let him start running it was too late.

Carry Back had gotten the lead, and that was all she wrote for Kelso. He was 2-3 lengths back, and Shoemaker was banging on him, but that didn’t help. I sure was disappointed that day, and I’m sure Shoemaker was too. I went to the unsaddling area, and Shoemaker just looked at me and shook his head.

“Kelso is still a good horse,” Fitz said.

Carl came out on the track to meet Shoemaker before he got on the scale. He was one pissed off man. I could not hear what he was saying, but I knew this, he was real mad.

Read the next chapter Milo Valenzuela jumps in the saddle for Kelso