Veteran Turfway Park trainer David Pate died Saturday, July 6 at University Hospital in Cincinnati after suffering a brain aneurysm. He was 70.
A native of Ashburn, Ga., Pate spent most of his life around horses. He grew up on his family's 36,000-acre Georgia horse farm, and then later worked as a jockey and a trainer starting in the early 1970s.
According to Pate's bio on the Turfway web site, Pate left his family's farm at 19 and joined his older brother at Ocala Stud in Florida. At the time the now-thriving racing center was a fledgling operation. He started working as a hotwalker but had his eye on riding, and in 1968 at age 25 made his debut as a jockey.
His riding career was plagued by his difficulty to maintain his weight, and while it was short-lived, it was not time ill-spent as it guided him toward a training career. "Once I started riding, I knew I wanted to train," he said. "I learned something from every trainer I ever rode for."
Pate credited that time with giving him insight into what can happen to horses during a race. "I'm not so quick to blame the jockey when things don't go right," he said.
Pate opened a small training stable at Tampa in 1972 and later moved to Latonia. He closed his stable after about six years and signed on as assistant trainer to Marvin Moncrief. The time with Moncrief's Maryland-based, 50-horse stable and the chance to make industry connections gave Pate the foundation he needed, and in 1988 he returned to Florida and opened a stable with about 25 horses. Looking for options to suit the varying talents in his barn, he moved to the Ohio/Kentucky circuits, where he was leading trainer at River Downs in his first meet and became a regular at Churchill Downs and Latonia, now Turfway.