New York and Florida farrier Ray Amato Jr., who shod two Kentucky Derby winners, passed away Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, from pancreatic cancer. He was 62.
Funeral services are pending.
Amato teamed up for a significant part of his career with his father Ray Amato Sr., a member of the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame. It was a winning combination. The father-son duo shod nearly horses that finished first in major North American races including two Kentucky Derby winners — Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming in 2017 — and three Belmont Stakes winners — Rags to Riches in 2007, Palace Malice in 2013 and Tapwrit in 2017.
The year 2017 proved to be highly successful as Amato family members shod each of the winners of the Triple Crown races. Ray Sr. and Ray Jr. kicked off the year by shoeing Always Dreaming in the Derby. Ray Jr.’s cousin Chris Amato shod Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing. Ray Sr. and Ray Jr. completed the “Amato Triple Crown” by shoeing Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit.
The father-son team shod exclusively for Todd Pletcher, a seven-time Eclipse Award winner as the sport’s top trainer.
“When Pletcher was developing into the conglomeration that he has become, they worked pretty much 7 days a week,” says Tom Curl, the Hall of Fame farrier from Vero Beach, Fla. “When the lights went on at 5 a.m., they went to work. You see that type of discipline in only a very few farriers. Ray Jr. was very close to his Dad. They were like Ben & Jerry; where one was, the other was there with him.”
Curl, who shod Big Brown when he came one win away from winning the 2008 Triple Crown, enjoyed the opportunities he had to work and spend time with the Amatos.
“They were always supportive and glad when I came to help with hoof crack repairs,” he says. “They always greeted me with open arms. Ray Jr.’s work ethic and kindness are something that we can all try to model.”