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Reports: Assistant Trainer Sheets Dies in Greece

Toby Sheets is among half-dozen tourists who have died or are missing in Greece.

Toby Sheets with 2022 Gotham Stakes winner Morello

Toby Sheets with 2022 Gotham Stakes winner Morello

Coglianese Photos/Susie Raisher

Toby Sheets, assistant in charge of trainer Steve Asmussen's Belmont Park division, was found dead June 16 on a rocky and fairly remote beach on the Greek island of Mathraki, according to multiple news reports and confirmed by Sheets' cousin Greg Sheets.

Sheets, 55 and a native of Hot Springs, Ark., is among six tourists who have died or gone missing on the Greek islands since June 5. The Associated Press reports that some of the tourists, maybe all of them, had set out on hikes in historically high temperatures. Mathraki is a 3.9-square kilometer (1.2-square mile) heavily wooded island, west of the more populated island of Corfu. Sheets was visiting the island, which has a population of 100, with a Greek-American friend.

Sheets has not formally been identified by Greek authorities but his identity was reported first by Thoroughbred Daily News. BloodHorse confirmed his passing with family members.

"They are not giving out any information until after the autopsy, so we just don't know what happened," Greg Sheets told BloodHorse. "I've been on the phone today with his dad, we live next door to one another. They are doing the autopsy today, then they are going to cremate him and put him on a plane back. 

"The family is a little shocked right now. Among all the kids, he was the one that had it going on; he had his act together."

The assistant trainer had been reported missing since June 13. Sheets had last been seen Tuesday, June 11, at a café with two female tourists who later left the island. The friend contacted police after finding his home with the front door open, lights and air-conditioning on, but no trace of Sheets or his ID or travel documents, according to The Independent.

Another tourist discovered Sheets on a beach near Mathraki's old port around 1:30 p.m. local time. The cause of death was not immediately known and his body was transferred to Corfu, where the autopsy will be performed, a police official told Reuters Monday.

The Greek isles are in the midst of a historic heat wave, meteorologist Panos Giannopoulos told Greek state television channel ERT: "This heat wave will go down in history. In the 20th century, we never had a heat wave before 19 June. We have had several in the 21st century, but none before 15 June."

Temperatures have hovered around 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) in Greece and been recorded up to 43C (109F) this month, according to multiple reports.

Sheets had been an assistant trainer for Asmussen for more than 20 years.

"Toby looked over many important horses and had plenty of success with the New York barn, including Creator's Belmont Stakes and with New York-bred champions Haynesfield, Bankit, and many others," said Asmussen.

Other top horses Sheets was involved with include 2014 champion 3-year-old filly Untapable; Jockey Club Gold Cup winner (G1) and two-time Horse of the Year Curlin ;  Cluster of Stars (2013 NY HOY, champion older female and female sprinter); Futurity Stakes (G1) winner Cuvee, Amsterdam Stakes (G2) winner Bwana Charlie, and Max Player ; who upset Mystic Guide  in the Suburban Stakes (G2).

Sheets trained in his own name from 1994-2004. He saddled 268 starters that went on to win 40 races and placed in 56 others. His runners earned $569,442 in purses, according to Equibase. Safely Kept Stakes winner Souris was among the best horses he campaigned in his name.