Below are the incredible trainers that keep our equine athletes running.
ray handal, new york
My father was a huge fan of horse racing and would spend all his free time while living in Kingston, Jamaica at the racetrack. It was at a racetrack where he met my mother, a racetrack cocktail waitress at the time, and it was at the racetrack where my father and I cemented our strong bond. My father, who is legally blind due to a genetic disease called retinitis pigmentosa, taught me how to handicap races and how to read the racing form before I learned to read non-racing literature in order to assist him on the track. I instantly fell in love with the sport, the culture, and the horses. I grew up idolizing trainers and jockeys such as Antony Dutrow and Mike Smith in the way that my friends at elementary school idolized Michael Jordan. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would pursue a career in horse racing.
With some help from racetrack friends I got my first job Hot Walking at Calder Race Course in South Florida. In the summer of 2004 I was sent to Virginia for the Colonial Downs meet. There I was able to associate with other trainers and was offered a Groom position for the upcoming Saratoga meet with Jonathan Sheppard. On the way from Virginia to Saratoga I stopped at Mr. Sheppard’s farm in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. I was in awe of the beauty of the farm and the stable operation and realized that there was an opportunity for me to learn how to ride. I asked Mr. Sheppard if I could stay at his farm to learn to ride instead of going up to Saratoga and he said yes! I spent the next two years hot walking, grooming, and learning to be an exercise rider.
Since my time at Mr. Sheppard’s farm, I’ve continued to work for some of the most talented horsemen in the industry. From Michael Matz I learned to refine my horsemanship and riding skills. From Kenny McPeek I learned how to run a stable as a business enterprise and what qualities to look for in order to find the “value buy” horse. From Christophe Clement I learned about muscle & body soreness, how to treat & relieve pain, and signs to look for in order to prevent bigger issues from developing. From Anthony Dutrow I learned how to tailor training programs, improve performance and how to mentally and strategically prepare to become a trainer. From Tom Morley I was motivated to start Handal Racing after seeing a young trainer achieve success in the New York circuit.
I am extremely grateful for the countless other horsemen and horsewomen who have shared their knowledge with me, supported me and inspired me to start Handal Racing, LLC. Thank you for joining me on this journey.
phil schoenthal, maryland
Phil has been a very well respected and successful trainer in the Mid-Atlantic region since 2004 while winning at a 23% rate in 2016. After serving in the United States Air Force and a short stint in corporate America, Phil settled into a career path surrounding thoroughbreds. Phil’s training regimen involves the utilization of high nutrient hydroponic fodder as feed, cold saltwater therapy treatments to help with recovery after exercise, class IV laser therapy and he utilizes his own hands for pressure point therapy for muscle and joint health. Phil routinely conducts barn tours for partners or people interested to get involved in thoroughbred racing and sits on several thoroughbred industry boards.
dan blacker, california
Born in Oxford, UK
Grew up around horses, showjumping competitively as a teenager
Studied at The University of Edinburgh
While at university Dan worked under trainers Richard Gibson and Jonathan Pease in France and the late steeplechase trainer Peter Monteith
Graduated from the Godolphin Flying Start program which included work placements with trainers Jeremy Nosesda in the UK, David Hayes in Australia, Godolphin in Dubai and Richard Mandella in California
Assistant trainer to Richard Mandella in California from 2007 to 2009, working with Grade 1 winners The Tin Man, Into Mischief and Dixie Chatter
Assistant trainer to Tom Albertrani in New York, Florida and Kentucky from 2009 to 2011 working with Grade 1 winners Gozzip Girl, Flashing and Kentucky Derby starter Brilliant Speed
Dan took out his trainer’s license in November 2011 and saddled his first winner less than a month later
phil d’amato, california
Philip D’Amato started his thoroughbred racing career in Kentucky and after several years moved home to Southern California under the tutelage of the late master Mike Mitchell. After ten years with Mitchell, D’Amato took over the barn when Mitchell retired in 2014.
Philip D’Amato hit the board right out of the gate winning more than 80 races including Grade 1 winners Obviously and Street Fancy. D’Amato also trained star thoroughbreds Midnight Storm, Big John B, Fanticola, and Bright Thought to Grade II victories.
Within less than two years, D’Amato has already reached some lofty goals. But Phil always sets the bar high. Obviously and Big John B were in the 2014 and 2015 Breeder’s Cup.
“I’d love to win a Breeder’s Cup race or the Kentucky Derby, but of course the pinnacle of success in our industry is the Triple Crown and I hope luck will one day carry me there,” said D’Amato.
While D’Amato learned much from Mitchell, he brings an impressive resume to his job. He earned a political science degree from the University of Southern California (USC) and an equine science degree (Racetrack Industry Program) from the University of Arizona (UofA).
ronney brown, west virginia
Ronney Brown has been one of the leading trainers in West Virginia for nearly a decade. Ronney was instrumental in the developing stages of Taste Of Victory Stables with his great success with Twenty Hawks. Twenty Hawks earned over $330,000 with Brown and won the 2012 Governor’s Cup. Ronney Brown recently won his 2,500th win this past year. Ronney Brown currently trainers HerCatWillFoolU.