“The last two or three months have been incredible. I really can’t complain at all. Three months ago, I had three horses and now I have seven. I’ve been very fortunate with the horses.”
by Chris Lomon
It was a harness racing journey over 5,300 miles in the making.
Santiago Porfilio might not recall the early days of his life in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but the 24-year-old, who now calls Washington, PA home, has heard the stories, read about them, and viewed the photos that detail his father’s and grandfather’s horse racing exploits in their homeland.
“In Argentina, my dad [Luis] was one of the leading trainers there and his dad [Domingo] was one of the leading trainers also.”
When Porfilio was four, he and his family moved to the U.S. — Florida, specifically — where his father could carry on with his horse racing career.
Luis was a decorated driver and trainer in Argentina. His high-profile victories include the 2000 Gran Premio Nacional, the country’s top standardbred event. His late father was also a revered horseman in his homeland.
“That race would be equivalent to winning the Meadowlands Pace or Breeders Crown here in the U.S. He won it [Nacional] four or five times. The money, it’s not great there, so he decided to come to the U.S. and look at opportunities here.
“Osvaldo Formia, a trainer who has won the Hambletonian, he’s from Argentina, too. He was in Florida, and we went to where he was in Florida. Eventually, my dad got a job with Kosmos Breeding Farm in Pennsylvania for a few years and he also shod horses, something he did in Argentina.”
Luis started his U.S. training career in 2005, eventually bringing over the best horse he campaigned in South America.
A brown son of Viking Terror, Elaine T Cronos won 20 of 24 career starts in Argentina and picked up right where he left off when he competed in North America.
The pacer scored three straight wins at Rosecroft over October and November of 2005, winning his first U.S race on Sept. 10 of that year.
Four years later, Luis won the 2-year-old filly Matron Final at Dover Downs with All Heart Gal, a horse he trained and owned through his Heritage Stables LLC.
Luis has wound down his training operation, focusing instead on his respected work as a farrier. His son has carried on the family’s racing success story.
“My dad kept a few horses at The Meadows, where he could either keep shoeing or training, and he decided to go with the farrier work. I think I was around 16 or 17 when I really fell in love with the horses. I’ve always been very business-mined. I went to school for business management and a minor in accounting. Although I didn’t completely finish my schooling, it’s something that has always fascinated me. But the horses eventually became something very important to me. I thought about them more and more each day.”
Just as he did when he was toiling long hours working in an oil field.
“I worked in that field for close to a year, right after I graduated high school. There was one day I remember where I just thought that working 100 hours a week wasn’t for me. I wanted to start chasing my dream, so I did.”
Santiago went to work for Pennsylvania trainer Greg Wright Sr. and then moved on to work at different stables.
The first racehorse he bought didn’t pan out. In keeping with his penchant for making smart business decisions, Santiago saved money and built up his racing education.
In 2019, he launched his own training career. It was a modest beginning – he went 1-1-2 from 32 starts in his rookie year – but his passion for horses and horse racing continued to grow.
His second year was entirely forgettable.
“Last year, I had six herniated discs. I had a horse kick me, but it wasn’t very hard. What the doctors think happened is that when I went to the gym the day after, I probably injured myself doing that. After the surgery, which took place in Stubenville, OH, it took me a few months for me to get fully healed. My parents (including his mother, Angela, also a trainer) really kept things going for me while I was injured.”
This year, however, has been much more memorable as Santiago has posted impressive numbers across the board (nine wins and 25 top-three finishes from 68 starts as of Sept. 26).
Off the track, life is good too, including his engagement to Chelsea Prescott.
“A horse I claimed almost a year ago to the day, Poacher N, I would say that’s when I really started doing this full time. He kind of guided me there and we had some success. There were some ups and owns during those times, but that’s the journey that it’s been.”
He’s hopeful the journey is even better in the years to come.
“The last two or three months have been incredible. I really can’t complain at all. Three months ago, I had three horses and now I have seven. I’ve been very fortunate with the horses. It’s always challenging, but I like that challenge. When you have a tie to horse racing and there are other options out there for you, there’s something that draws you back, and you really know it’s what you want to do.”
It’s why Santiago looks forward to heading to the barn each morning, where he can be around the horses while also furthering his racing education.
His willingness to listen and learn from others has been a key contributor to his rising star status.
“I’m extremely competitive, so that’s another thing that makes this a good career for me. Every day, you got out there see who is best. I like that aspect of it a lot.”
When he’s not spending time with his fiancée, you’ll find Santiago immersed in a very familiar subject.
His preferred way to de-stress? Horses and horse racing.
“For me, there really isn’t too much of an unwind. I like to do things together with Chelsea, but outside of that, it’s the horses. On any given day, you’ll find me reading the entries, watching replays… if I could, I’d probably watch racing all day. The horses help me out. They are my unwind. I’m lucky because Chelsea loves the horses. She comes out, looks at the horses, enjoys being around them, and then she’s off to her job. If I have a good or bad day at the racetrack, she’s always there to listen to me. In many ways, she’s my backbone.”
As for where his career is headed, Santiago is eager to see where it leads.
He’s proud of the journey that’s brought him from Buenos Aires to Pennsylvania and focused on adding more memories along the way.
“I always say it’s one horse at a time. I’d love to have a stable on the Grand Circuit one day, to get that opportunity. I never thought I’d have seven racehorses, but that happened. I want to continue to grow and put myself in a good position.”