Lexington, KY — Horseman Ronald “Ronnie” Bencal, 77, died May 24, 2020, after being hospitalized since early May at the Delray Medical Center in Delray Beach, Fla. Mr. Bencal had health issues and also tested positive for coronavirus.
Born in New York City, Mr. Bencal was drafted into the Army and served for four years. Mr. Bencal’s father was a New York City detective who knew horseman Jim Grundy, so after being discharged from the Army he began working with horses. He then moved on to work for the W.R. Haughton Stable as a groom and became a second trainer. In 1972, he began working for his brother, Bob, as a second trainer at Roosevelt Raceway. The Bencal brothers were familiar faces on the Roosevelt backstretch until the track closed.
When Roosevelt closed, the brothers went their separate ways for a few years, with Ron buying a Baskin Robbins franchise in Florida and Bob training yearlings in Florida. In the early 1990s, Bob convinced his brother to work in his stable once again and assist with the training.
Mr. Bencal retired in 2012 because of health issues.
“My brother was definitely a big part of my success,” said Bob. “We were equals when it came to training horses. We trusted each other’s judgment when it came to knowing a horse and would bounce ideas off one another about what each horse in the stable needed. Ronnie was especially good with a horse that required patience.”
Bob trained horses for Jeff and Paula Gural until his retirement, and one of his brother’s favorite horses was the mare Chili Bowl, who was also one of Paula’s favorites.
As a native New Yorker, Mr. Bencal loved all sports, particularly baseball and the New York Yankees, and music, especially the Grateful Dead and Van Morrison.
During his years living in South Florida, he was a part of the harness racing family that socialized at Rattlesnake Jakes in Deerfield Beach.
In addition to his brother, Bob (Monica), Mr. Bencal is survived by his daughter, Jennifer (Keith) Cosgrove; granddaughters, Stella Cosgrove and Marina Cosgrove; stepson, William Fleming; brother, Ken (Peggy); sisters, Barbara (Brian) Winters and Susan; and his fiancé, Claire Bileci.
No arrangement details are available at this time. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame or the Standardbred Retirement Foundation.