Trainer Profile: Antonio Sano

Trainer Antonio Sano

Antonio Sano was born in 1963 in Venezuela. He comes from a family of horsemen — grandfather, father, uncle. Sano served as an assistant trainer for 5½ years while at university earning a degree in engineering. He became a champion trainer in Venezuela after taking out his license in 1988 and was based at Valencia.

Venezuela’s racing industry used to be healthy, as was the country itself, fat on oil revenue. But as oil prices fell, so did Venezuela’s economy, and the country descended into chaos and criminality.

In 2009, Sano was kidnapped for the second time in his life. The first time, he was released after four hours. The second ordeal, however, lasted a harrowing 36 days before his family and friends were able to pull together the ransom money believed to be near $70,000.

Sano was the winningest trainer in Venezuelan history. But following the second kidnapping, Sano closed his stables and left behind 165 horses. He decided to move his family to the U.S. They settled in Florida, and Sano started over from scratch.

His reputation in the industry, however, preceded him. Sano had little trouble finding owners willing to take a shot with his U.S. venture, and he always had a sharp eye for claims. He earned his first U.S. win April 5, 2010, and by the end of his first year in Florida, had amassed 37 winners. In 2011 that doubled to 75. His success has increased steadily since. His owners began sending Sano to various American horse sales, seeking equine prospects at auction rather than through the claim box. That’s where Sano selected a $16,000 yearling named Gunnevera.

Sano trained Gunnevera and took him to the Kentucky Derby where he finished 7th. Gunevera also ran in the Preakness Stakes and finished 5th.  Gunnevera has earned more than $1.2 million. Sano has won more than 500 races in the U.S. and topped $1 million in earnings every year since 2011.