Jack Kelso RHKJC Steward
Scone has a close historical link with the ‘colonial era’ Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club (RHKJC) now known as the vastly successful Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Jack Kelso became Stipendiary Steward for Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club in 1958 living in Repulse Bay for 6 years. In 1962 Mr J. Kelso was appointed Clerk of the Course of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club and also a Stipendiary Steward.
The Chairman commented; “We must all regret that the Club did not do this before. Mr J. Kelso is an Australian with a good record as a successful trainer in New South Wales”. Jack Kelso was also handicapper and Clerk of Course until 1967.
John ‘Jack’ Kelso was born at Redfern on 6th October 1905. He was one of five children produced by his parents; namely William Edward, Frederick Charles, Beryl Jean, Francis Alan and Jack. Young Jack was firstly an apprentice jockey and then like his father and grandfather before him a trainer. Jack married at St Jude’s Church, Randwick on 26th August 1925. He ran a horse transportation business in Sydney until buying property in ‘Meandara’, Queensland in 1946. Jack Kelso worked all over the State as a Stipendiary Steward at country race tracks. It was a ‘baptism of fire’!
Jack’s grandfather William ‘Bill’ Kelso won the Melbourne Cup in 1928. The following article appears on Trove:
“The Melbourne Cup, Australia’s premier horse race, for a stake of £10,000, run over two miles at famous Flemington this afternoon, was won by Statesman, a four-year-old son of Demosthenes. He is owned and was trained by Mr. W. Kelso, of Sydney. The winner was ridden by J. Munro. ‘Strephon’ the Victoria Derby winner was second, and ‘Demost’ third. Statesman started second favorite at seven to two, the favorite being ‘Strephon’ at nine to four. ‘Demost’s’ price was forty to one.”
Jack and Mrs Kelso returned to Scone raising horses on his son John’s studs “Timor Creek” and “Blandford Park” until his death on 23rd. August 1999. Jack Kelso was a long term committeeman of the Scone Race Club chaired by his son John along with Lionel Israel and Harry Hayes. Jack and I served as the Scone Race Club delegates on the White Park Committee. Jack’s verbal jousts with Jim Fuller (Rodeo) and both Bob Robb & Herbie Phelps (Golf Club) were the stuff of legend! Some mature pepper trees along the railway line obstructed the view of the 1400 metre chute for race patrons. Mysteriously the trees died. “They got a virus” said Jack. It might have had something to do with the ‘Tordon Axe’ an unknown assailant had wielded a few days before? There were no witnesses! I rest my case.
Jack lived in the corner house at the Kingdon Street/Main Street intersection for about 30 years. It was a far cry from Repulse Bay but conveniently close to the ‘Thoroughbred Hotel’ and not too distant from the RSL Club. Bobby Dunn at the Tyre Service was a very good mate. Chris Winter tells an apocryphal story of a gift of beautiful silk handkerchiefs Mrs Kelso brought from Hong Kong after attending the RHKJC centenary as special guests in 1985. Jack unceremoniously dumped them on Bob saying with a peremptory flourish: ‘The Mrs says see if these fit around your snozzle’! Jack was very well placed in the ‘Snozzle Stakes’ himself; he was known by many as ‘Rudolph’! Jack’s final barrier allocation was in the Dumaresq Wing of the Upper Hunter Village Association; now ‘Strathearn’. He was 96.
Jack Kelso: Racing’s Senior Citizen
Harley Walden writes:
The senior citizen of racing, not only in the district but areas throughout Australia, would have to be Jack Kelso.
With 96 years behind him, Jack has been associated with racing at all levels, not only in this country but overseas as well.
I recently spoke to “the boss”, as he was known to his many friends when he visited the Scone RSL Club for his daily game of snooker up ‘till a few years ago.
He now resides quietly at the William Dumaresq complex in Scone; or as he puts it, stabled there.
He spoke of the past years as thought they were yesterday, of the horses and jockeys he has seen and of the champion of the 1930s Phar Lap – the best racehorse by a furlong.
Jack Kelso rates Jim Pike, Darby Munro and George Moore as the best jockeys he has seen ride, with Jimmy Munro as an unsung hero in an era that boasted so many outstanding riders.
The astute judge also says he feels that Peter Pan, the dual Melbourne Cup winner of the 1930s, would have held his own against top liners of today, based on the fact that he could handle all weather conditions and also carry weight.
The name Kelso has been linked with racing and breeding for more than a century.
Jack’s father William was one of Sydney’s leading trainers at a time when most racing stables boasted a team of about 15 horses.
Owner-trainers were the mode of the day, a point made when William Kelso bred, owned and trained the 1928 Melbourne Cup winner Statesman.
Jockey Jim Pike, well known for his association with Phar Lap, served his full apprenticeship with Bill Kelso.
Jack Kelso was born in 1903. He travelled to Queensland as a 16-year old jackaroo after becoming too heavy to continue his jockey’s apprenticeship in Sydney but not before riding a winning double at Randwick.
Returning to Randwick three years later he was granted a first-class trainer’s licence at the age of 19.
Jack says he had 10 stables that were generally full with moderate horses. One of the early racehorses was winning filly Chatterbox who late went on to one of Kia Ora Stud’s top mares and the dam of 1937 AJC Derby winner Avenger.
In 1947 Jack Kelso turned his hand to the administrative side of horse racing when he became a stipendiary steward for the Downs and South Western Racing Association at Toowoomba in Queensland.
“Those days entailed a lot of travel by car or train as the Association had about 50 clubs attached to it,” he recalls.
“Travelling to Quilpie, Cunnamulla and Charleville, you’d be away two or three days just for one race meeting.”
In 1959 Jack was offered the job of stipendiary steward for the Royal Honk Kong Jockey Club, a position he held for six years.
The Hong Kong racetrack in those days was a far cry from the elaborate set-up today. In those days it had a 6.5 furlong saucer track and an open-strand barrier start.
On his return to Australia Jack became attached to the North and North West Racing Association, once again as a steward.
Living in Scone he endured his share of travelling with meetings as far away as Moree. He held that position until he hung up his binoculars aged 70.
Jack Kelso’s lifetime has spanned an era of hard knocks and battlers and a career that has earned him the respect of the thousands of people in the racing world with whom he has had contact.
Trainers, jockeys and owners knew that any error on their part and they would feel the iron hand of a man who even, at this stage of his life, shoots straight from the hip.
The man they call “the boss”.