Freddy Wilson with Zenyatta.

Freddy Wilson with Zenyatta.

Courtesy of Paula Smith

Well-Known Exercise Rider Freddy Wilson Dies

Known recently for his connection to Zenyatta, he also handled problem horses.

A memorial service will be held Jan. 14 for Freddy Wilson, veteran Southern California horseman and exercise rider best known in recent years for his connection with Zenyatta.

Wilson, 71, died Dec. 26, according to the Santa Anita Park publicity office. No cause of death was given.

He was well known on Southern California racetrack backsides for his ability to handle tough and problem horses. Over the years he worked with many of them.

More recently, Wilson rode the pony that accompanied champion Zenyatta to and from the track in her morning workouts for trainer John Shirreffs. He called her "Big Mama."

"She brought me out of retirement," he recalled toward the end of Zenyatta's racing career. "I came by the barn one day, saw her, and about snapped my neck off. I asked John, 'Who is that?' He said, She's a 2-year-old.'"

The service will be from 1 to 6 p.m., at 4756 W. 169th Street, Lawndale, CA 90260.

“Freddy was one of the good guys and will be sorely missed by many,” said Santa Anita mutuel clerk Billy Tripp, a long-time friend and fellow exercise rider.