by Guest blogger Rob Logsdon
I spent Derby week in the barn area at Churchill Downs every morning, observing the many farriers that were there to shoe Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby horses. This is one of the most enjoyable weeks for me and I always look forward to the time spent with these talented farriers.
Throughout the week, I was able to meet with Todd Boston, Steve Norman, Jim Bayes, Caughey Romero, Frankie Guarneri, Jimmy Costello and Ray Amato, Sr. and Ray Amato, Jr. The speed and efficiency these professional farriers display in their work is impressive. Not only is the Derby an opportunity for the best 3-year old Thoroughbreds to perform at the most popular horse race, it also brings together the best trainers and farriers. Observing these farriers shoeing these magnificent animals is truly a pleasure.
This year was especially notable because Ray Amato, Sr. and Ray Amato, Jr. came to Louisville to shoe horses for trainer Todd Pletcher; the leading North American trainer, by money earned, for five consecutive years. The Amato men have been shoeing for Pletcher for over 19 years.
The Amato men have been shoeing horses in the U.S. for three generations. Ray, Sr.’s father came to America from Italy and settled in Queens, New York. He first shod carriage horses in the City, but as the popularity of the automobile grew, and the need for passenger/cargo horses waned, he made the transition to shoeing race horses at Aqueduct racetrack and Belmont Park. Ray, Sr. learned from his father and began apprenticing and shoeing on the racetrack over 60 years ago. In the mid 1970’s, Ray, Jr. joined his father in shoeing horses on the racetrack. The Amato’s are true icons in the racing industry, and everyone agrees – they are a pleasure to be around. It was a privilege to spend time with them; watching them work together during Derby week.
This is the first leg of the exciting Triple Crown. Next up – the Preakness!