Kelso beaten in the Washington Park Handicap, 1961

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…

That week [after the Brooklyn Handicap], Mrs. du Pont had a party in New York City, and there were a lot of people there who weren’t even invited, but we didn’t care. The only one who was missing was Kelso himself. I left the party and my wife and I went home. It was about one in the morning, and she was tired, but I was wide awake. When she fell asleep, I got dressed and went out to the track just to be with my buddy. He was lying down, and I didn’t want to startle him.

I stayed out there about an hour and a half, talking with the night watchman. He was an ex-jock, and just loved old Kelso. He wanted to know how good a race he ran. I told him he could be proud of him. He just did what he was out there to do. He kicked butt. The old watchman wished he could have seen that, but felt he was too old to fight the crowd anymore. But he was sure Kelso had done a good job.

The next morning, Carl [Hanford] came in early, and said that he thought he would give him some time off, and let him rest up. I said to myself that that was mighty nice of Carl, and I knew Kelso would thank him for it.

We walked him for three days, and it got so bad with him that I had to get on him and jog him around the shed row. I did this for four days, and told Carl that he was going to hurt himself playing so much in the shed now. Carl said that we would take him to the track the next day, and let him gallop off some of this piss and vinegar. That sounded good.

That morning, I got there before Carl and put out all the tack which I shouldn’t have done because Kelso got all riled up. He bit Bill [his groom] on the back which made Bill mad. Bill went back to the stall to get his feed tub and water bucket out. Kelso began running around his stall, almost ran Bill over, and then tried to kick him. When Carl arrived, we put the tack on him right away so we could get out on the track and let him gallop some of this roughness out of his system.

We get to the track, and he was a handful. I broke him off in a gallop, and he started to buck and wheel around which was a no-no. I got after him by slapping him with my hand which hurt me more than him. He settled down, and started to do what he was supposed to do, not act like some bronco. He had done everything we had asked him to do, so we let him play around a little. We were going to give him a little rest for about a month or so, and then look for a race at the same time.

It had been two weeks, and Kelso had been galloping, hacking around the jump field, and grazing. He sure did like this rest and relaxation. Carl was thinking about some race in Illinois, and I thought it was the Washington Park Handicap. I heard him talking to Bones, Eddie [Arcaro’s] agent. That was run at Arlington Park which has a track like a brick road, so here we go again.

About two weeks before we left for Illinois, we started to move right along with Kelso, and we got two good works in him before we left. I think we worked him five eighths that week, and seven eighths five days before we left. He seemed like his old self, ready to go.

Here it was September, and three days before we would leave for Arlington Park, we were going to have Tom, our blacksmith, reset him. Carl decided we could do it there [in Chicago] because we didn’t want to reset him here, and have him do something on the trip to have them come loose. Reset him is just about all we did when we had him shod. Now if I had been the trainer, I would have reset him two weeks before shipping him to a hard, fast track. I think he would have shown more on a track like that under those conditions.

When we arrived at Arlington Park that afternoon, we got Kelso in his ready made stall, and waited until Carl arrived. Kelso was doing everything right that day. He got into the stall, took a pee, went to his hay, and started to pick at it. Then he turned around, stuck his head in the corner, and went to sleep.

Carl came and told Bill and me what to do, so he could go to the office and visit all his old buddies.

“Dickie,” Carl said, the blacksmith will be here in about an hour. Make sure he does this right. Remember, no clipper on his feet, just file them. You know what to do. I’ll see you in the morning, okay.”

They had fixed up the tack room with two bunks and two chairs and a table.

We had our own sheets and blankets, so I fixed my bed, lay down, and fell asleep. When I woke up and put my shoes on, I went to the screen door to see what was going on. Bill was standing by the shed, talking to someone.

Then I happened to look down right in front of the door, and there lay a pile of hoof clippings. I yelled at Bill to come to the door. When he got there, he said that the blacksmith had just left. Well, I sure hoped that pile of hoof clippings laying there were not [from Kelso]. But they were from his feet.

When he said that, I just stood there, thinking about what I was going to tell Carl. I didn’t want to say anything to Bill because it was my fault for falling asleep, although I did think Bill could have gotten me up. I told Bill that Carl was going to have a fit when he saw this, and when I told him I had been asleep, he would be mad as hell. Then Carl walked in.

“Carl, I have something to tell you.”

“What now, Dickie?” he said.

“The blacksmith came and did his feet. What happened was that I fell asleep, and Bill didn’t wake me up. Now this isn’t Bill’s fault, it’s mine (although I did think Bill really knew what to do with his feet). Here’s what he took off his feet.”

Carl’s face turned bright red, and he hollered, “I can’t depend on anyone to do just one thing right here in the last four days. Let’s find the blacksmith, and paint his feet because he won’t be able to walk on anything hard. The gravel on the road will kill him if he can’t get this paint.”

We got some paint and didn’t wait till morning to put it on his feet. Once we got it on, Carl told me to put the tack on him and ride him around the shed. He seemed to be walking okay, and I told Carl to let me take him down the road. He said to let Bill take hold of him, go ahead, and take him down there. We walked down the dirt path to the road, and on the edge of the blacktop was some gravel. Bill led him onto it.

Kelso stopped as soon as his feet touched that gravel, but he kept moving, for the road did not hurt him. That afternoon, Carl had calmed down some, but I knew that it was going to hurt Kelso big time in this race. Bill and I were pretty mad at ourselves for being so stupid and not watching the blacksmith.

The next morning, I was up before Bill fed him. I went out to his stall, and pulled his head up to the webbing so I could feel his feet. I did, and they were hot as fire. I knew he was going to be sore. Bill came out of the tack room.

“Why are you up so early, Dickie?” he asked.

I said, “I just felt his feet, Bill, and they are hot as fire.”

I told Bill that it was 4:30 A.M., and Carl won’t be in till about 7:30 or 8:00, and just between the two of us, we should take him out here and hose him for an hour.

Bill said, “Dickie, you are going to get the both of us fired, and I don’t want to start any trouble. If you want to, go ahead, but I didn’t see you take him out. I’m having breakfast at the mess hall.”

I took him out, hosed him for about twenty-five minutes, and guess what? Carl drove up and saw me. I was ready to take a beating and tell him everything. He asked if I had felt his feet. When I said that I had, he told me that he was out here at 2:30 A.M. this morning, and that they were very warm then. Carl thought I must have been reading his mind in my dreams. I guess I was. He asked me how long I had been hosing him. About thirty-five minutes. He told me to give him a good hour.

Okay. I stood there dumbfounded, and didn’t say a word. Then he asked me where Bill was, and I told him he went to the mess. He said that he was going there to get himself some coffee, and did I want any? I said I did, that coffee and a roll would be fine, thank you.

Carl got in the car, and went to the mess hall. I was hoping that he would not run into Bill. He didn’t, for Bill came around the corner, and I was sure glad he didn’t see Carl.

“Was that Carl who just left?” he asked.

I said that it was. “Did he get on your ass about him out there getting hosed?”

“No, in fact, he was in a good mood, and told me he was out here at 2:30 in the morning, feeling his feet and that he was glad I was out there hosing him.”

Bill said, “You are as lucky as a shit house mouse. I thought he was going to tear into your little ass. Did he say anything about me?”

I told him no, and that he was fine about it all, so not to say anything. Then Carl came back, and I had about fifteen minutes to go.

Carl came over, took the hose, and told me to drink my coffee. I told him that I was sorry about all this shit, that it was my fault.

“Dickie,” he said, “you didn’t mean all this, so here is what we got to do. We will put some more of this sealer on the soles of his feet and let it harden. When it dries, we will do this again. Dickie, my boy, this is all part of horse racing. Just do the best you can to get your horse ready for the race. These things sometimes happen, and I think this hurts you more than anybody.”

Glory be, I didn’t think he was going to be this way. I started to feel more kindly about Carl, and it made me feel a little better about what Carl was thinking about me.

I wanted Carl to have a good opinion of me, and that he could always depend on me to try and do things right when it came to Kelso or anything to do with this stable. Here it was, 9:30, and they just said they were going to harrow the track. Carl said that we should wait and get him on a good track. We put the tack on him, and Carl told me to go ahead and get on him, and ride him around the shed row.

I got on him, and we started around the shed row. He was walking fine. I told Carl that he was all right just walking. Carl said that when I came back around and saw that I could, to jog him and let him move right along. We were jogging, and that shed row path was real hard, but it didn’t seem to bother him. The track was now open, so we went to the blacktop, and I held my breath. He got onto the gravel, and didn’t make one bad move. He was fine. Carl looked at me and asked if I felt anything with him on that gravel.

I didn’t so I thought he might be okay. Now here is where I had the chance to tell Carl that he knew Kelso did not like a hard track anyway, so it was going to be hard to tell what the trouble would be in the race.

Carl shrugged and said, “Dickie, let’s not talk about it now. We will just have to wait and see. Eddie will know after the race.”

Well, it didn’t make one bit of sense to run him on a hard track, knowing he can’t handle it or he can’t run his best. It’s not fair to him when you know he will try his best.

Race day was here, and Carl was not in the best mood. He told Mrs. du Pont what happened, and blamed himself for it. He didn’t say anything about me falling asleep and not watching the blacksmith. We get to the paddock, and Mrs. du Pont was talking to Carl and Eddie, and she was not happy at all. I got over close to where I could hear her talking to Carl. I did hear her say that he should have scratched him, and if he had gotten the vet here to look at him, he would agree.

Carl said to Mrs. du Pont that he would be fine, and there was not much here to beat. When I heard that, I almost fell off the pony.

Bill looked up at me and said, “Did you hear that?”

I didn’t say a word. Eddie got on, and we were walking around the ring. Eddie said, “How have you been, Dickie?”

“Just fine, Eddie. How have you been?”

“I’ll tell you after this race if he can make it back.”

When he said that, I knew Carl must have told him about the blacksmith. We got out on the track, and Eddie asked, “Are his feet that bad?”

I said, “His feet aren’t bad. It’s just that he has a thin wall on the bottom, and he can’t handle these hard tracks at all.”

Eddie told me that Carl had said the blacksmith had cut him a little too close, and asked me what I thought. I didn’t want to hear that.

“Eddie, I’ll say this, but please don’t say a word that I told you. Eddie, he is going to get beat today. I don’t like saying this, but just don’t bang on him too much.”

“You sure do look bad, Dickie. I know this must bother you a lot.”

“It sure does, Eddie, but I can’t say anything.”

“Don’t worry, Dickie, I won’t hurt him, you know that.”

I knew that Talent Show, Chief of Chiefs, and Run for Nurse could run, and they liked this track, and Kelso did not. Chief of Chiefs, Talent Show, and Run for Nurse, I think that was the order of the finish.

Kelso was fourth, and Eddie pulling him up, yelled at me, “You were right, Dickie, he didn’t even try, and I didn’t push on him at all.”

Read the next chapter Kelso bounces back win the Woodward in New York