Zenyatta, Horse of a Lifetime for David Ingordo By Samantha Clark

 By Samantha Clark


David Ingordo is definitely what you would call a "mover and a shaker" in the bloodstock business.  Still in his early 30's, he moved into a large office at Lane's End last year, which, apart from a few pictures of Zenyatta, (naturally!) remains largely undecorated due to lack of time. He talks fast, thinks fast, moves fast. David takes meetings in the car on the way to the airport. He'll fly to the West coast to look at potential stallions at a moment's notice. He juggles vets, managers and owners in person, and on his blackberry, calmly and efficiently, but quickly. I don't think he sees obstacles, but challenges, and thrives on the heady pace, and what others might call stress.
"Other guys like shooting pool, or going on vacation or playing golf, but I don't find enjoyment in any of that. I like to do this. There are days when everything's going on at one time, and I'm a scheduler, (holds up notebook with no blank spaces), but at the same time, you've got to be willing to change direction really quickly. I like it, I wouldn't change it. "

Horse of a Lifetime
 It was David who spotted Zenyatta as a yearling at Keeneland, and bought her for such a reasonable price for the Moss',  that for one terrible moment he thought he might have made an awful mistake!
"We budgeted way more than she cost, but definitely in the Moss' comfort level. Then when we got her for $60,000, I'm superstitious -I bid 90% of the time from the same spot at Keeneland, and when I saw the two guys walking towards me with the ticket and we got her for $60,000, I thought, 'uh-oh' and I ran to the chute where they horses come out, and she has that big, distinctive white face, and I saw that, breathed a sigh of relief, said,' phew,ok', and signed the ticket.

The Early Days
 The passion for racing was born within him in 1989, when his father, a jockey's agent, won the Kentucky Derby with his jockey Pat Valenzuela on Sunday Silence, and later took him to watch the Belmont.  His mother, Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, was Bobby Frankel's business manager, and in his death is executor of his will, so at 14 years old he went to work: first as a hot-walker, then groom, then Barn Foreman, then at age 18 he had a barn of 10 horses for Frankel at Delmar, enjoying a great meet.
At that point, he would have gladly foregone College but at his mother's insistence, he enrolled at UK, and before classes worked at Juddmonte in the mornings, where he says with a wry grin, he filled in the real gaps in his education,
"I enjoyed my time there, but what I needed to learn I learned in the mornings on the farm. I'd never worked on a farm, I never saw a foal. I thought horses were born coming out of the back of airplanes! Every horse we had, was 2, 3, 4 years old and came from Europe, from Juddmonte... so that was the first time I ever saw a foal, and I thought, wow, where do you put the saddle on this, when do we train them?!"
Joking aside though, David stresses that having worked with horses at every stage of their development has stood him in good stead ever since,
"It was good for me because a lot of people I know, education happens at the racetrack, a lot of people I know it happens at the farm, but it's kind of rare that you can get it from birth to when they're weaned to when they're yearlings, to 2 year olds, to when they're broken and trained and ship off to the track, and then bring them back the other way and learn to let them down when they come back to the farm, and getting them in foal, and that whole process.
Most of my success I equate to having worked on the racetrack, having been around the horses, having seen that they come in all shapes and sizes, and seen confirmation faults that really tend to be problems, or just preferences.  Toeing out - is that a bad a problem as people at the sales make it out to be? No. Is back at the knee as bad as everyone says it is? Yes, probably.  We can walk past the horses that may be the prettiest ones, and go and find the ones with all the tools that are going to enable them to become athletes. With all the good horses we'eve had now we can work our way back, we know what the runners look like, now we have to find them as yearlings, or breed ones like that.

Love at First Sight?
Q: And what about when you first saw Zenyatta?
David:  It's one of those things, I can think of maybe five or six horses that when they walk out, we look at them and think we have to have that horse. When she came out, we looked at her and thought she was just perfect for our program: she was big, scopey, good bone, good feet, had all the right angles. She just had this skin disease which wasn't the consignor's fault, and I think between that and her size, people just looked at her and thought she was going to take a little time, a lot of people walked by her.
I think at the end of the day it was meant to be for the Moss' and everyone involved.


The Next Big Thing..?
Q: Do you find now, that Zenyatta influences you when you're looking for other horses, or do you intentionally try and put her out of your mind?
David:  I try not to even reference Zenyatta, if I'm interviewing for jobs or anything like that because on the charts of success, she'll probably never be achieved again realistically, she was just that good. However, last year I bought six Grade I winners including Zenyatta, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Switch is not as big and robust a filly, but she's a good size, a little more compact. Mona de Momma is 15.3hh, she won a Grade I. Another one called Crisp who's 17hh, and everybody compared her to Zenyatta physically, she wasn't really but people would say that. Majestic Perfection, he was a typical sprinter build, he won the Vanderbilt.
 I try to find each horse that I like. I think we do have a type which is that rangy, scopier horse. I haven't seen another one like her. Her sister is the closest thing I've seen that looks like her and she's by Bernadini, and she's going out to John Sheriffs in the spring, but she's the closest thing I've seen physically to what Zenyatta looks like, which puts a lot of pressure on her! Otherwise I haven't really seen anything that kind of looks like her, they can be big horses but they can be narrow in the middle, or their leg doesn't match their body, or their shoulder doesn't match, something about them. She was a big filly, but everything went together well, she was always very well-balanced. Like I say, she was just a once in a lifetime thing.


Recognising Greatness
Q: Did she always that amazing presence, that class about her?
David: Well, she did. A lot of good horses have something about them, it's very rare that they'll come out and just be common, but she came out and she had class, when she walked out there was a presence about her. Nothing like she has, that all developed, really when she left the training center and went to John Sherriffs.
 I spoke to the girls who run the Training Center  on a daily basis, and they called me up and said, "You've either got one really fast horse, or a bunch of really slow ones". I was sitting here in my office, and my phone rings, and Jeanne Mayberry and her daughter April run the Training Center, and Jeanne called up, they had let them all do a little something, a two minute lick for the first time, Jeanne who's trained the Kentucky Oaks winner with her husband, and won a lot of Grade Ones as a trainer, her daughter April was Baffert's assistant, was around Chiluki, and Real Quiet, and Silver Charm, so they know a good horse. Jeanne called up and said,"you'd better get down here". By the tone of her voice I was worried that there might be strangles on the farm, or one of the barns had burnt down, and when she said it was about the black Street Cry filly, I asked if she had EPM, or what? She just told me I had to get down there to see her, that this filly was taking one stride to everyone else's three.
 Anyway, I went down there and I watched her go, and it was pretty obvious that she was something special. Just the way she did things from pretty early on in her life. We've had a lot of them down there that we've like a lot early on in their life, and most of them go on to be pretty decent, some of them will break your hearts, so I try not to get too excited, or the owner too excited and set the trainer up for failure, but I did call my mother, and tell her they'd better think of a good name for the Street Cry filly, that's always my thing, because we might be reading about her in the paper.
When she left the farm, we actually thought she could be 2 year old Champion, because at the time she was so much ahead of everyone else. We thought she would win everything, crush them, win the Breeders Cup probably, Juvenile Fillies. She just kept having little setbacks, and she kept growing and growing, and having little setbacks, and growing, little baby things.  We ended up being right about her winning the Breeders Cup, it was just as an older mare, and in the Classic.

Q: Did you ever imagine that one horse would inspire so many people, and capture the imagination in the way she has?
David: It's amazing, and at times it's even lost on me. I've been around her so long, which is not to say that I'm unaffected, because there's no-one who's around her who's unaffected, she's just amazing that way, but yes, I'm shocked. It's great, and it proves to me and to the entire racing industry that our business isn't dead at all, it's just poorly marketed in some ways. We could do some things that might help, I mean Zenyatta is so unique, but if she's the ultimate there's still a lot of things that could be done, with let's say Rachel Alexandra and Uncle Mo and Twirling Candy, and all those different horses out there.


Living with Zenyatta

Q: Do you see her every day?
David: Oh yes, I at least drive by and check on her and see her. Sometimes I'm on the 'phone in the morning, and I'll watch her get turned out, and I'll sit and talk on the phone to someone while she runs around before I head back. She's part of the family. What she's done for the business as a whole, for me, for my family, for the Moss' - it's like going to see your sister or something!

Q: She's adjusted so well to a completely different life.
David: Oh, the best, and happy. Happy as a clam, she couldn't be doing any better. Her coat's growing out, she's putting on weight. She goes out, and if there's a mudhole out there she finds it and rolls in it.  We have to keep horses up in the stalls at the racetrack because of the facilities we have and the way it's set up, but here she can go out in the field and be a horse. She's got a lot of her good tendencies, personality-wise, they're still a part of her, but there's a part of her that's a horse again too. I see a totally relaxed animal out there that loves it, she's in her element, she has friends that she's hanging out with. She's assimilated beautifully. I've seen a lot of these top race mares coming off the track between here and Juddmonte and wherever, and I've never seen one take to it that easily and really look happy to be there.

Q: What kind of mother do you think she'll be?
David: Well, she's a nurturing animal. Little kids would come up to her at the track and what's the worst thing, that as a hot racehorse that's cranked and ready to run, and on edge? To be around a little kid that's trying to spook it or pet it or something.  There was a little girl that walked up and was playing around her legs, and Zenyatta knew it, and was good and didn't do anything.  Another time, a little girl came up behind her and swiped her butt really fast, and normally that would get you kicked from here to Fayette County, and Zenyatta just looked at her, she's an extraordinary horse.
David will now divide his time between the farm where breeding is about to start, the West Coast, racing and sales down in Florida, and racing on the tv in his office.  When he first started, his goal was to buy ten Grade One winners, which he's done already, (Zenyatta won thirteen on her own), and the tally for this year already at the time of press was two that were bought at auction, broken & trained by his team.  Hardworking and driven, he acknowledges he makes sacrifices but, "I woudn't trade it for anything. I have too good a gig, too good a clientele, too much opportunity and I'm too fortunate. Like I said, I wouldn't change a thing for the world, it's great. I like it. "  Thank you to David Ingordo for his time, to Lane's End Farm, and of course to Zenyatta, and thank you for reading.



Leave a Comment:



02 Mar 2011 12:54 PM

Thank you David, for this wonderful blog! I am always eager to read anything and everything about Zenyatta. If it wasn't for you, she might not have become the horse she was destined to be. I am so glad that Team Zenyatta has and continues to share this once in a lifetime horse with the fans.

02 Mar 2011 1:20 PM

A very nice article.  It is nice to see that David still checks in on Zenyatta everyday.  The horses that let you pet on them and love on them will steal your heart away.  I was glad to hear that her breeding to Bernardini went so smooth.  The whole industry is looking forward to her first foal.

02 Mar 2011 2:53 PM
Lise from Maine

Bonjour Zenyatta!

It is so nice to see you once again.

You are absolutely gorgeous! How I wish I could see you in person, and I do miss you very much.

I am eager to learn of a new baby coming soon.

I see from the article that you are a happy horse on the farm, and it seems to me that you are well taken care of.

Thank God for that!

I see that your hind legs match the snow. By the way, we have a great deal of snow here in Maine even though spring is around the corner.

Take care, Zenyatta, and lots of love to you.

02 Mar 2011 2:55 PM

Great article, enjoyed every word. David is certainly a credit to the industry, his parents and of course to the great mare herself.

It is so fortunate for everyone the world over that Zenyatta was  part of the Moss team. One cannot even imagine what might have been if that was not the case. Sometimes, Right does prevail.

02 Mar 2011 3:21 PM

Great background story, and what a lucky man David is to have that job AND get to be at Lanes End every day! Thanks for the Zen pictures, I am so happy that she is enjoying her new life.

02 Mar 2011 3:54 PM

Man, I miss her.

A horse of a lifetime there is no question.

02 Mar 2011 4:39 PM

What is it about Zenyatta that so captures your heart? I am suffering from withdrawals from not seeing her on TVG.  I am a great gramma and have never reacted to a horse this way. My whole family has been affected by her.  Can't wait for the baby.


02 Mar 2011 6:35 PM

I really enjoyed reading this article! Thank you, David, for sharing your thoughts & experiences with us. I envy the  amazing lifestyle & career you have, working with all the gorgeous thoroughbreds. Zenyatta is truly special!

02 Mar 2011 6:46 PM

Thank you for sharing this delightful, informative interview with David Ingordo here on Bloodhorse.com.  The photos of Zenyatta in the snow are the icing on the cake, so I'm grateful for that as well.  It is obvious from this article that Mr. Ingordo is as able to multi-task as his mother who does such an incredible job in so many capacities, not the least of which is Zenyatta's diary - always a great read.  Thank you!

02 Mar 2011 6:48 PM

I just have to thank everyone involved with Zenyatta that we, her fans, get the privledge of getting to hear about her all the time. To get to read these articles, see current pictures, go to her website and read and interact with all her fans and Dottie is just so amazing. I love getting to watch current videos of her(eating her pears). I never thought in a million years after she retired this would continue. WE ARE ALL SOOOOOOO LUCKY! Most horses just kind of fade away into our memories because we never get to hear much about them. That's too bad, I would love to hear how Rachel and others are doing. Again thank you team Z, LE and everyone else involved in still bringing the Queen to us all. Although we may not be able to see her in person too much over the years to come, you all have certainly given us the next best thing!!!

                 Lori Stein

02 Mar 2011 8:18 PM
Paula Higgins

Absolutely loved this!!! It all started with David. Without his eye, Zenyatta would have been bought by someone else and the story/outcome would have been entirely different. Instead he bought her for Jerry and Ann Moss and they sent her to John Shirreffs. That's what I call karma. A very informative article about a very smart guy.

02 Mar 2011 8:40 PM

I love these articles on Zenyatta...especially when her history is covered.  I've said it many times...everything in her life was meant to be...from the very beginning of her life to her eventual training at Barn 55 with the "Zenmaster".  Now that she has come full circle and is back in Kentucky we can finally reflect in amazement just how special and unique her racing career was.  She truly is a once in a lifetime horse.  Kudoos to everyone who has or is caring for this magnificient creature from God.

02 Mar 2011 8:56 PM
Robin from Maryland

Loved the article.  I too, miss seeing her on TVG.  David you have the BEST job in the world.  If I had your job, I would probably spend all my time out in the paddocks with the horses - nothing would ever get done.  Now the waiting game begins.  Next year will be one to remember, Queen Z's foal and RA's foal.  Just alittle piece of history we all will witness. Hope that both the girls deliver HEALTHY babies! In the meantime I'll look forward to hear any news on the Queen.  Best wishes to all.

02 Mar 2011 9:44 PM
Karen in Indiana

David, you are truly fortunate to have the opportunity to do what you love so much. And what's more - we the public get to watch the fruits of your labor and appreciate it. Thank you!

02 Mar 2011 10:09 PM

Wonderful! Thank you David! You are truly one lucky guy who deserves all the great things that have happened to you. I hope you can dedicate some of that energy in finding homes for those that do not become Zenyattas.

Good Luck in the future.

02 Mar 2011 10:14 PM
jennie muller

Nothing has ever inspired me more than Zenyatta.  She is a force.  I miss her and will always feel honored to have met her and to see her race.  She will be a wonderful mother.

03 Mar 2011 2:23 AM

No words on any blog can amply express the love we all feel for her. Zenyatta is a once in a lifetime animal. She came to us, crossed our paths we all are the better for it. She may not be the greatest race horse to ever look through a bridal (that is certainly debatable)but she will always be the greatest to her fans. NO race horse since Ruffian has ever moved me the way Zen has. Love you forever baby, you go girl............

03 Mar 2011 3:03 AM

What a lovely article and great photos too!  I'm so glad to hear from someone who knows horses so well that she's adjusted so well to farm life and is a happy horse.  I'm really looking forward to learning next week if she's in foal!

03 Mar 2011 5:43 AM

Wonderful interview !

03 Mar 2011 9:50 AM

I still love Z.

03 Mar 2011 11:41 AM

I enjoyed reading about David. I'm glad it all worked out the way it did. Nobody deserves more credit than Team Z. They are the greatest bunch of people in horse racing. As much as I love horse racing, it's just not the same without Zenyatta. Yes, she nearly gave me a heart attack, but after her races, it was worth it. She's just plain special.

03 Mar 2011 2:16 PM

The real tribute to John Shireffs and crew is how she has let down so easily at the farm. I know from personal experience how difficult it can be for lots of horses coming off the track and coming off the drugs used on them for years, whether legal or not. It can take up to a year for them to get their weight right and function like a normal horse.  I am eternally grateful to John for taking such good care of her.

03 Mar 2011 2:38 PM
Stephanie Q

She's look so much like a Horse now and I love it!! Here's hoping for Baby Z!!

03 Mar 2011 3:05 PM

Thank you Samantha Clark for a great interview with David Ingordo, the person who "recognized" that the young dark bay filly, who would be named Zenyatta, had that indefinable something.  She has certainly moved me like no other and once again reading about her touched something within that prompted tears.  Maybe, it is as simple as my heart knows I will never see another like her.  Like her legion of fans, I am forever grateful for the Zen experience and thankful that her Team Z has been so willing to share her with her fans.  Perhaps one of the reasons for Zen's sweet, kind nature is that she has always been surrounded by love and generous spirits.  May her great good karma continue in her new role as broodmare.  Thank you again for the article and the great photos.  I never tire of looking at her.  What a fortunate mare.  

03 Mar 2011 4:50 PM
Big Brown's Buddy

A tremendous Thank You! to David Ingordo for discovering "our" Zenny all those years ago! What a great find you made, not just for the business, but for all of us fans,too! Zenyatta's a treasure!

03 Mar 2011 6:30 PM
Linda Bulger

She is a special gift and will always be. I know her foal will carry her spirit on. Love you Zen

03 Mar 2011 7:23 PM

David- You have the best job in the world!  And you are obviously very good at it.  thank you for sharing some of your insight into Zenyatta's world and your work.  It was such a privilege to see Zenyatta race at Hollywood Park, Santa Anita and Del Mar.  A thrill of a lifetime for sure for me.  

Best regards!

04 Mar 2011 12:19 AM

Thanks so much for the wonderful article!

04 Mar 2011 12:31 AM
200 Pound jockey

I went to see Z run at Churchill Downs in the BC Classic. It broke my heart to see her lose that race, it took me weeks to get it out of my system. I still think she was the best horse that day, 5 more feet and she would have won. I've always loved Mike Smith, but thousands of us in the stands were not too happy with him that evening. Looking back now, I'm just as proud of her in defeat. She gave the world her classic thrill run, like the champion she is. She is a once in a lifetime horse, and will always be loved by her fans. I can't wait to see her offspring! Lots of love girl, and Mike, we all forgive you. That must have been tough for you, but you were a champion on her back, and that makes you one lucky guy. Go Team Z!

04 Mar 2011 2:32 AM

Fabulous article on the incomparable Queen Z! David - thank you for your valuable time to share your uniquely personal & thoughtful insights. Like others, I cannot get enough of Zenyatta & am so grateful that your Mom keeps up her fantastic website, which I read everyday; and I'm always looking on the BH website for articles on her before reading anything else. I hope you can provide the industry with the help it desperately needs with marketing - you hit the nail on the head with this one - as well as to use some of your energy & influence to assist those retired and/or displaced racehorses who are not as fortunate as Queen Z & those like her who are assured of loving care all of their lives. Thank you for all you've done for racing, its fans, and mostly, for probably the best pick you'll ever make - selecting Zenyatta! I am eternally grateful to you & your family & all of her connections. Lane's End is very fortunate to have you.  

05 Mar 2011 9:28 AM
Barbara W

Great article! I'll be forever thankful that our Z ended up in the right hands!

05 Mar 2011 11:39 AM
Anita in Ca

Thank you, David, for bringing us Zenyatta and for the look inside her world.  We who love her are always craving new info about.  So good to know that she's happy and well looked after by a family member, since I and other fans feel like family members too. Thanks to Samantha for this also.

05 Mar 2011 4:54 PM

Love the photos!

I wrote a longer post a few days ago in response to this, but I guess it has been lost in cyberland.  It was all positive, but I can't recapture my thoughts now.

Thanks for the article about Zenyatta.

05 Mar 2011 6:30 PM
Linda in Texas

Would have loved the question posed to David since his dad was also involved in racing, does he think that people are born with horse racing in their genes, or do they acquire it by osmosis?

David is truly a natural with a compassionate heart.

Was listening to the announcers on HRTV talking about prices paid for horses, one mentioned that Zenyatta sold for $160,000 at the sale. I tried hard as i could to contact them and tell them, no,

she went for $60,000. So it isn't always the price you pay for something, it is how you work with what you have.

Thanks for this nice interview.  And we will be looking forward to Zenyatta's sister when she heads to Barn 55 in California.

And Amen, Deacon, Freetex and all who think the same way.

I have finally come to the resolve that i can never let her go and i have a lot of company.

Thankyou to David, his dad Mr. Ingordo, Mr. Frankel for the knowledge he passed on, Dottie and John and now Lane's End but especially to The Moss's. And above all Zenyatta!

06 Mar 2011 11:57 AM
Sue M

What a great article. I miss Queen Z, too. I miss her wonderful exciting races. But at least all of these articles and being able to keep up with her helps ease the pain a little bit :) What a special horse. My husband and I saw her in the BC at Churchill Downs and I will NEVER forget that day, ever. It was a historical moment for the sport and we were there. (And we met Zenyatta and John the next day at CD.)

Thanks to David for finding such a wonderful horse, and thanks Samantha for tell us more of Z's story.

12 Mar 2011 3:53 PM
Mike Relva

DAVID                              Zenyatta had the kind of connections that every horse should be lucky enough to have. Bravo.

12 Mar 2011 10:46 PM

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