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Q&A: Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs
The wife of trainer John Shirreffs, she has been the racing manager for Jerry and Ann Moss, the owners of Zenyatta, since 1984 and is the successor trustee of the estate of the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel
Family: husband, John Shirreffs; son, David Ingordo
Zenyatta is about to have her first foal. Are you excited? Nervous? It’s total excitement. For John, myself, and the Mosses, it has been an amazing journey. It’s been a long time, but it seems to have gone very quickly. Mike Cline at Lane’s End keeps us updated. We know what she weighs, what she’s eating, as though we are there. She will always be a part of us.
Zenyatta was wildly popular when she was racing. How full has the mailbag been since she became a broodmare? It’s unbelievable. Her Facebook fans have doubled since she retired. We get incredible hits on her diary at zenyatta.com. John and I still get a lot of fan mail. Lane’s End gets a tremendous amount of mail. She’s been a life changer for a lot of people, not just us. People really have bonded to this horse. It’s incredible.
Are you, John, and the Mosses planning on heading back to Lane’s End when she has her foal? The Mosses are going for the foaling, which could be next week. John and I will go after the foal is running around.”
Any decision yet on to whom she will be bred this year? We’re finishing details on that now. We haven’t made a final decision yet. She has to have one baby first before we have her dating again!
How did you become associated with the Mosses? Bobby Frankel and I were almost like brother and sister. I was very close to Harry Silbert, Bill Shoemaker’s agent, and Harry’s wife. One day Harry said to me, “You’ve got to help Bobby.” I was teaching school. I had finished graduate school. Harry said Bobby needed someone to help him. First, it was just to oversee his business and make sure nobody was robbing him. But it evolved. Bobby trained horses, and I did everything else in his life – meeting with contractors and designers for his house and with his lawyer for his divorce. Bobby trained for the Mosses at that point. In January of 1984, I was walking through my house on a Saturday morning, and the phone rang. It was Jerry Moss. He said they needed someone to help them with the horses.
Was it on Bobby’s recommendation? I assume it was. But I never asked. I went to work at Jerry’s office at A&M Records. It was fabulous. We were there for years until he sold the company.
How gratifying was it that the Mosses’ two biggest accomplishments in racing − winning the Kentucky Derby with Giacomo and campaigning Zenyatta − were done in tandem with your husband? To think you are blessed at any level to win the Derby and then have Zenyatta be the evolving story after, it’s just amazing. With racing, it becomes more of a lifestyle in terms of a profession – seven days a week, always on call. To have that happen with John and David being involved, it’s a storybook situation.
Michael Blowen, who operates the Old Friends retirement farm, credits Bobby and you for saving the farm. How did that all come about? Bobby left a portion of his trust to charity. He wrote in the paperwork that I could decide how it could be distributed. There were three entities – Old Friends, Race for Education, and, because he loved dogs, the ASPCA. I wanted to do something that would carry his name and all that he has done. Bobby wanted the trophies displayed, and put, as much as possible, in a unit. I’ve done work with Michael over the years. I think he’s done a wonderful job. The Mosses have helped from the beginning as well. You have a responsibility to give back. We talked to Michael, and that’s how the Bobby Frankel division of Old Friends came to reality. It’s in New York, which is kind of symbolic, since Bobby was from New York. The trophies are at the Kentucky division, but some are at the New York division. To see these horses that have done so much live out their lives in such a fabulous environment is a credit to Michael and a credit to Bobby.
As brash as Bobby could be, he had a soft touch when it came to animals, especially horses and dogs. It seems appropriate that was expressed in his estate: It was pretty well known in the industry that he loved his dogs very much. These animals were his dear friends as well. He just loved them – horses and dogs. Making a contribution to the ASPCA was a nice way to honor the dogs.
You also mentioned Race for Education: We wanted to honor people as well as the horses. In addition to helping horses, we wanted people to help fulfill their dreams, and education is a good way to do so. Race for Education is very well run. They do a very good job. It’s for students and people from the industry. There is going to be an endowment in Bobby’s name.
Your son David has grown into a prominent bloodstock agent in Kentucky. How proud are you of his accomplishments? Very proud. This job, as you know, it becomes a lifestyle. It’s a labor of love. You work hard and put in long hours. He was raised in this environment. He’s been around horses from Day 1. He started hanging around Bobby’s barn one summer. Bobby would assign him two horses. He’d have him feel their legs. He’d say, “Don’t tell me when they are the same. Tell me when they are different.” David would go on the weekends and help out. He would read the Blood-Horse, and Juddmonte would put out a breeding book, so David would study pedigrees. He was doing that when he was 14 years old. He would memorize it. At 15, he started pinhooking with Jeanne Mayberry. My goal with that was to teach him to pay bills, write a check, and learn about business, but it became a bigger thing. He went to the University of Kentucky. Out of college, David worked for Walmac, then Juddmonte, and now he’s gone on to Lane’s End. It’s so much fun for all of us to work together. John will be on the phone with David the whole way driving home from Hollywood Park. We’re really blessed. And we enjoy spending time with David’s daughter, Reagan, too.
Hobbies? John and I are absolute sports nuts. We love sports. We plan when we have dinner around certain games. We get up at 4 in the morning. I go make John some coffee, and we watch “Mike and Mike.” One of our favorite times of the year is coming up – March Madness.
Future ambitions? Obviously, to win as many races as possible, and we’d love to win the Triple Crown. But for me and the people around me, it’s doing something for the sport. This is a great sport, and if people do the right thing, it can become huge. It can have an impact. I’d like to do something to elevate the sport, like the momentum around Zenyatta. We had people coming from all over the country to see her. To do something that makes a mark on the sport and gets people loving it is something that’s important to myself, John, and Ann and Jerry. We want to give back. You give back by developing good horses and having a good spirit around them. Zenyatta not winning that last race, she was obviously still a winner in our eyes, but if she’d have won, that grandstand would have come unglued. To see her take a victory lap would have meant a lot. As much as the sport has given us, we like to give back, in some way, shape, or form.
Of course we'll never know what it would be like if Zenyatta had won her last race. But I think that single loss, by a nose, with her heart displayed for all the world to see, may have endeared her to us all in a different way, and may have garnered her more fans. At any rate, this great horse was surrounded by great people. Thank you to the entire team for what you continue to give to the sport. Now, the world waits for the arrival of Zenyatta's little one!
Dottie has become to so many of us such a generous role model and teacher. Her kindness, love, and loyalty for her family, the folks she works for and with in the racing industry, and especially for all of us fans is almost supernatural. Thank you, Dottie, for everything you do and are for so many, many people. God's many blessings to you and John and your family
Dottie is definitely a classy lady, she should be in the winner circle/
What a classy lady. A wonderful Mom, wife and business person. I hope you write a book, Dottie about all your wonderful experiences. Thanks for being the voice of Zenyatta. We love you and wish "your John" Mikey and Mr. Commons good fortune and safe racing tomorrow.
Always nice to hear your comments and insights Dottie. I am a huge fan of Zenyatta and even named my recent rescue dog, Zenny. I enjoyed meeting Team Z at Breeders Cup at Churchill and treasure being a small part of it.
Just love all the people involved with Zenyatta , they represent the sport so well. If the whole world was full of people like the Zenyatta team it would be perfect!
A very nice interview with Dottie Ingordo ...here it is if you haven't read