Barn 55

Barn 55 is John Shirreffs’ barn at Hollywood Park Race Track in Inglewood, California. It was the home of ZENYATTA throughout her entire racing career.

It has been said that in LIFE it takes many people working together to make GREAT THINGS HAPPEN. That is truly the case with ZENYATTA. We’d like to honor the hard working people from BARN 55 who worked passionately with her each day.

Steve Willard—was Z’s exercise rider throughout her career. He is the person who each day would get on her for her daily training routine. He is also the man who would set the pace on another horse for Mike and Z when she was breezing in preparation for a big race. Steve has countless years of riding experience having been a jockey and then an exercise rider for horses like Gate Dancer, Sand Pit, and Gentlemen before working at Barn 55.

Mario Espinoza—-was Zenyatta’s dear groom. He cared for her each day as though she was his own child. He bathed and brushed her, rubbed down her legs, and carefully monitored her each day with complete devotion. He would constantly check with John on every single thing with her…and he adored every moment. In turn, SHE adored him as well. When he returned to the stall to see her after her first Apple Blossom victory, she leaned over the webbing and licked his cheek sweetly…as if to say, DIDN’T I DO A GREAT JOB, MARIO! He just beamed.

Carmen—is Mario’s wife and she works at Barn 55 as a hotwalker. She walks the horses that her husband grooms for John. Needless to say, this couple shared many moments with Zenyatta. Carmen would walk her each morning and hold her for Mario when Z would be getting a bath. One of the cutest memories involves Z’s first stakes race, THE EL ENCINO. When she crossed the finish line in front, Mario grabbed Carmen’s hand, they kissed and then ran off to the winners’ circle. Moments like this, one does not forget. It was priceless and the beginning of so many cherished memories to come for this couple.

Michelle Jensen—is one of John’s assistant trainers and she has also studied massage therapy for years. She is the person who would often give Z her daily massage…to be sure all of her muscles were in perfect shape. Needless to say, they were great pals…and Z appreciated Michelle’s gentle yet soothing touch! Michelle has ridden horses for years…and had one wish. She wanted ONE RIDE ON Z before she left for Lane’s End. Wish granted!

Frank Leal—is another of the assistants at John’s barn. He is constantly there to help and support the rest of the staff with the horses. He is also one of the traveling team and would go out of town with Z and Mario when she traveled. Zenyatta loved to be outdoors and graze and stand under her 2 favorite trees at Barn 55. Frank would often assist with this as well as so many other things that helped Z.

Cheva—is a foreman at the barn. He too would help Mario and Frank with Zenyatta. He was also one of the people who would graze her in the afternoons and spend time with her outdoors. One of the cutest photos is that of Z resting her head on Cheva’s head. She would stand like this for a long time and just look around. They were great friends.

Dawn Hunkin—is a veterinarian and her practice does all of John’s vet work at Barn 55. Logistically, she is the partner who lived closest to Hollywood Park, thus, she would be at the barn the most. Dawn got to know Zenyatta quite well during those years. And Zenyatta got to know Dawn. They became very special friends.

Others we’d like to thank are hotwalkers, Lupita and Junior, and watchmen, Gus and Bob…to name a few.

LUCKY Z….FOR SURE!

The Team.


Photo by Maggie Yount/ m.y. photography