Italian Trainer Wins With First U.S. Starter

Initial American victory for Francesco Santella comes in claiming race at Hollywood.

Italian trainer Francesco Santella scored with his first North American starter when Coal Region Kid captured the third race at Hollywood Park Dec. 1 (VIDEO).

The 33-year-old conditioner lifted jockey Eswan Flores off the ground in the winner's circle with a big embrace following Coal Region Kid's 2 1/2-length victory over 10 rivals in an $8,000 claiming race at 7 1/2 furlongs on Hollywood's Cushion Track. Coal Region Kid, a 5-year-old Medaglia d'Oro  gelding, is owned by Vegas Racing Team.

Santella left Italy for California two months ago. He said he won about 100 races in his native country but decided to relocate because there is “not much money" in racing there.

His owner, Vegas Racing Team, is made of a group of Italian restaurateurs who have eateries in Rancho Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach in California, as well as in Las Vegas, Santella said.

He said that he and his father, Salvatore, boast more than 40 years in the training business between them.

“I trained Miss Vegas before she came here to Bobby Frankel,” said Santella. Miss Vegas went on to defeat multiple grade I winner Ticker Tape in the 2004 Senorita Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park.

Santella said that he has five horses at Hollywood, four yearlings from Keeneland that are being broken, and 24 horses in Italy, some of which will join the local stable next year.