Ray Amato Sr. of Delray Beach, Fla., passed away July 25, 2022. He was 88.
Amato started his farrier career working for his father as an apprentice for 3 years. Amato first began his craft on racehorses at Aqueduct in 1949. His impressive resume started to develop after he worked fitting shoes for Hall of Fame trainer Hirsch Jacobs.
The work that Amato provided for Jacobs led to him shoeing for other notable clients including Bobby Frankel, Laz Barrera and Frank (Pancho) Martin. “Ray knew how to spot great trainers,” says Vero Beach, Fla., farrier Tom Curl, who was a close friend of Amato’s.
“I first worked with Ray in 1996, at the Hialeah Race Track, in Hialeah, Fla.,” says Curl, an International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame member. “He called me in to work on a quarter crack. Ray wanted to shoe racers and didn’t want to do anything else. Ray always said ‘I’m a racetracker.’”
Amato handled many champion horses and is known for being as friendly as he is professional. Curl says that he had met numerous farriers and industry professionals who had crossed paths with Amato over the years. He never heard a bad word about the farrier. Amato’s work as a farrier has resulted in track records set throughout the East Coast, such as the first filly to win the Belmont in more than 100 years.
“In 2008, when the horse I shod, Big Brown, won the Kentucky Derby, Ray was one of the first people to call me and congratulate me,” Curl says, adding that Amato joked that he was jealous Curl has shod a Derby winner before he had. “So I told Ray, ‘You’re time will come to get a Derby winner.’”
Indeed, Amato’s time would come to shoe two Derby winners before his death – Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming in 2017.
Amato came from a farrier family, having been a second generation farrier, who eventually passed the trade on to his own son, Ray Amato Jr. The father-son duo worked together extensively, including shoeing Super Saver and Always Dreaming. The pair shod numerous other horses together as well, such as three Belmont Stakes winners — Rags to Riches in 2007, Palace Malice in 2013 and Tapwrit in 2017. In 2020, Amato Sr. was inducted into the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame.
Amato Sr. was preceded in death by his son, Ray Amato Jr., who died in 2021 at 62, from pancreatic cancer. In July, the New York Racing Association held a fundraiser and memorial for the late junior farrier on July 23, 2022.
Funeral services for Ray Amato Sr. are still pending.
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