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September Horse Person of the Month: Angel Romo Sotelo

September 26, 2023

Time on the Woodbine backstretch is, without fail, time happily spent for Angel Romo Sotelo.

He is, like the countless others who work in the barns that dot the stretch of land just south of the Toronto oval’s three racecourses, a dedicated, diligent, and devoted horse person, whose love of horses and horse racing is undeniable.

Sotelo first developed a fondness for horses in his native Mexico.

“I was basically surrounded by horses the moment I was born,” recalled Sotelo. “Almost my entire family has been involved with racehorses.”

At 16, he moved to Florida, where he landed his first full-time racing role. In 2010, an opportunity arose, one that would eventually take him from the Sunshine State to Barn 28 at Canada’s premier racetrack.

“I was very lucky,” said Sotelo, who worked for Niall Brennan Stables, prepping the operation’s 2-year-olds for the sales, during his time in Florida. “Niall is friends with (Woodbine-based trainer) Catherine Day Phillips. They referred me to her, so I went to Toronto, and I met Catherine. She is such a nice person. I like the way she runs the barn, it’s always very peaceful. She takes care of the people and the horses, so I felt I was very lucky that I had come to a very good place.”

A place he has now worked for nearly 15 years, the past 13 of them as assistant trainer to Day Phillips, whose top horses have included multiple graded stakes winners A Bit O’Gold, Jambalaya and Mr Havercamp, along with other stars Dixie Moon, Geraint, Sister Seagull, Neshama, and Bravely, just to name a few.

Whether they find success at the highest level, in allowance races, or claiming ranks, each horse is equal in Sotelo’s eyes.

Millie Girl and Angel Romo Sotelo
Millie Girl and Angel Romo Sotelo

Working with them, one-on-one, is a constant source of joy for Sotelo.

“It doesn’t matter to me how much they earn or how many wins they have. They are beautiful animals, each with their own personality, and they deserve to be cared for in the best way. I love them and I get so happy when I see them. You want all of them to have a good performance. It makes me happy and proud to see them do well and be competitive.”

Sotelo is always moved by a particular moment, the times when jockey and horse make their way to the winner’s circle where they are greeted by the Day Phillips’ team.

“It’s such a great feeling. To see them win, it is a wonderful sight. The whole team is happy. It puts a smile on your face.”

Which is precisely how Sotelo wakes up each morning, typically, around 3:30, before he heads to Woodbine where he will arrive about half an hour later.

His day begins with a check of each horse in the barn.

“I do talk to them,” Sotelo said with a laugh. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. In the morning when they see me, they all stick their heads out.”

And then it’s time to get down to work.

“I feed them breakfast, look at the horses’ legs, whoever needs medication, I will do that. When Catherine gets here, I will communicate anything she needs to know. Then, we go out for training. She goes out on her pony, and I walk over. She watches from the wire, and I stay over and watch them from the backside.”

While each day brings something new, there is one constant throughout the Woodbine racing season for Sotelo.

A good day, he noted, is any day around the horses, just like it has always been for him.

“I’m really proud of what I am and what I do. We have a lot of happy days here and I am thankful for that.”

As is Day Phillips, who is grateful to have Sotelo as part of her team.

“I cannot say enough to reflect the respect that I have for Angel both as a person and as a horseman.”

Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms

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