LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) – When assistant trainer Larry Kelly first met his boss Antonio Sano, the winningest trainer in all of Venezuela was down on his luck.
“I remember him walking around. Eventually he got some stalls which was hard to do,” said Kelly.
And thus began, Sano’s walk back to greatness and to this year’s Kentucky Derby. The trainer of Gunnevera was forced to start from scratch after surviving not one but two kidnappings eight years ago.
“The situation was no good,” said Sano looking back. “Citizens with masks. No eat. No good. It’s terrible.”
“They were very secretive,” adds Kelly. “There were days where he did not know where he was.”
For 36 whole days, Sano feared for his life and wondered if he would see his family again. His ransom was eventually paid but Sano knew he had to leave and get away from a place that was getting more and more dangerous.
“I arrived here in March 22nd 2010 and began my new life here,” he explains. “ I left 180 horses in Venezuela for no horses in the United States.”
It wasn’t easy but Sano managed to get back on his feet.
“He came here but did not give up his passion,” said Kelly. “Obviously when he 1st got a couple horses and started training, people knew who he was.”
Even though Sano has no plans to return home any time soon, that does not mean he has forgotten about where comes from.
“I pray to win the Kentucky Derby for the people (of Venezuela) so they change their minds,” he says.
“Even if this brings a little light in the turmoil in that country,” adds Kelly, “I think that’s a plus.”
And it would be a win for Sano in more ways than one.
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