Toby Sheets, of Floral Park, was found dead on an...

Toby Sheets, of Floral Park, was found dead on an island in Greece during the recent heat wave there.  Credit: Courtesy Ronnie Sheets

An American found dead Sunday on a remote Greek island has been identified as a Floral Park man, who handled champion thoroughbred racehorses for a number of high-profile trainers such as Hall of Fame inductees Jack Van Berg and Steve Asmussen.

Greek authorities said the body of the tourist, now identified by family members as Toby Sheets, 55, was found on a stretch of beach on Mathraki, a small island with a population of under 200 located off the western coast of Corfu in the Ionian Sea. The remote island has no police force.

The death is the latest in a series of incidents involving foreign tourists who have either disappeared or been found dead on Greek islands in recent weeks, according to The Associated Press. Greek officials have attributed at least some of those deaths to a recent record heat wave, claiming some are hikers who became lost in remote areas.

A police official located at a station in North Corfu, who said he participated in the response and investigation Sunday, confirmed to Newsday that Sheets was found on the beach five days after he’d last been seen at dinner on Mathraki in the company of two foreign female tourists whom officials said had since left Greece.

That police official, who declined to give his name because he was not authorized to speak, told Newsday the victim he described only as “the American citizen, 55 years old” had first been reported missing on June 13, adding: “From first look it does not appear criminal. But, the medical examination will origin the cause of death.”

Ronnie Sheets, the father of Toby Sheets, said the family was notified of the death Sunday, but said autopsy results have not been released.

Sheets grew up in rural Glenwood, Arkansas, outside Hot Springs, the son of divorced parents. He had five stepbrothers.

“We had a few cheaper racehorses here,” Ronnie Sheets said Wednesday, “and always had horses around, so it just got in his blood from an early age. He galloped horses for some local farms from when he was like 12.”

Brother Rusty Barnes described Sheets, who never married, as “a force of nature.” Speaking Wednesday, Barnes said: “Toby was insanely charismatic, complicated, loyal, larger than life and loved by a tremendous amount of people who knew him. He was a pied piper of people and made those around him feel like they were bigger, better and brighter in every way — and that nothing was impossible."

Sheets trained horses for Asmussen for the better part of two decades, Barnes said, before a falling out led to them part ways last year.

Among the horses Sheets helped train for Asmussen was Creator, which won the 2016 Belmont Stakes for celebrity chef Bobby Flay and WinStar Farms under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. On Wednesday, Ronnie Sheets shared a photo of his son exchanging a high-five with Ortiz after the Belmont.

In a statement to the Thoroughbred Daily News, Asmussen praised Sheets — especially on his handling of Creator and 2010 Jockey Club Gold Cup Grade 1 stakes winner Haynesfield. “He will be deeply missed by his family and many friends,” Asmussen said in that statement.

In addition to training for Asmussen and Van Berg, Barnes said his brother also trained for other notable trainers, including Kathy Walsh and Rachel Sells. Among other high-profile horses Sheets worked with was Cluster of Stars, an undefeated sprint champion that earned $549,600 in seven races and won the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap, and Gallant Bloom.

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

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