SARATOGA, N.Y. -- California-born Ray Handal was a young boy when his family moved back to his father's homeland of Jamaica.
It was at that same time he started following his old man to the racetrack.
"It was kind of like bonding for us and we would go to the track and hang out and watch horse racing and I just fell in love with the horse part of it," Handal said.
Wit his father suffering from a degenerative eye disease, Ray's job was often to read the racing form to him.
"He would be sitting there with his magnifier and I would be next to him and we would have the form together reading it back and forth," Handal said.
That was the 27-year-old's introduction to a sport he's now trying to earn a living in.
"As early as I could remember I wanted to train horses and be in the business," Handal said.
At 12 he started hot walking horses on weekends. His passion grew.
"I was 15-years-old, I left home and went to Colonial Downs for the summer," Handal said.
After working for big names like Jonathan Sheppard, Michael Matz and Tony Dutrow, he decided to go out on his own two years ago.
"I probably wasn't 100 percent ready to rock and roll," Handal said. "I wanted to definitely wait a few more years and get a little more polished but I had a group of guys, they were like 'man, we want you. We want you to start training, we will support you and we will help you out.'"
The road hasn't always been smooth.
"It's hard, it wears on you, it really wears on you," Handal said.
Earlier this year he went nearly six months without a win.
"You just have to have a short-term memory and be able to turn the page," Handal said.
However, his persistence paid off earlier this month in the form of a French-bred colt named Winter Springs, who gave the young trainer his first career win at Saratoga.
"Still sometimes I can't even believe that it really happened," Handal said. "It was so surreal. You dream about this kind of stuff and you work so hard at it and it finally happens, I can't even put into words. It feels amazing."
Hoping to gain exposure and attract new clients by spending the summer at The Spa, Handal is chasing a lifelong dream that began at his father's side.
"It's just been a real blessing, I have been very fortunate I have had a great supporting cast, my family has been amazing," Handal said. "I am just very blessed and grateful for all that has been given."