Ray Amato Sr., a 2020 inductee to the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame, died on Monday in Florida. Daily Racing Form reported cancer as the cause of death for Amato, who was 88 years old.
Amato apprenticed under his father, Salvatore, who learned horseshoeing in his native Italy and immigrated to the United States in the 1920s. Ray Amato began working at Aqueduct in 1949 and counted Hall of Fame trainer Hirsch Jacobs among his clients early in his career. That led Amato to other trainers, including Hall of Famers Laz Barrera, Scotty Schulhofer, Robert Frankel and Frank (Pancho) Martin.
More recently, Amato was closely associated with Todd Pletcher, working with the future Hall of Famer when he launched his training career in 1995. Among the horses he shod for Pletcher were Kentucky Derby winners Super Saver and Always Dreaming and Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches.
“Aside from being a terrific blacksmith, he was just a super person,” Pletcher told Daily Racing Form’s David Grening.
“One thing you can learn from Ray is one of the greatest joys in life is doing something you’re passionate about,” Pletcher told Tom Pedulla in a 2018 feature in Paulick Report. “He loves shoeing horses, he loves being a blacksmith, and he’s passed that on to other family members.”
Just as his father trained him and two of his brothers, Ray Amato trained his son, Ray Amato Jr., and worked alongside a nephew, Chris Amato, in a family business.
Ray Amato Jr. died from pancreatic cancer in 2021 at the age of 62.