Café Silver: Adventures and Misadventures of a Celebrity
Café Silver; Adventures and Misadventures of a Celebrity: It was 2007, and the Invasor Mania was at its peak. Plenty of Uruguayan horses were being exported around the world, mostly without success, but there was a good-looking gray horse with potential to compete with the best horses overseas: Café Silver. The horse, a son of Cafétin (Arg) and out of Potri Silver (Uru) by Potridoon (Arg), was acquired by Antonio Isidori in the Haras Gavroche sales.
“My wife Mery has a strong attraction to the grays, so when the horse appeared in the sales ring, she asked me to bear down to buy him. The final price was $8,400, but since I had taken a mare to the Haras Gavroche, I convinced the owner to exchange the horses, and I didn’t spend a dollar” Antonio Isidori said.
Café Silver made his debut under the training of Yolanda Davila at Maronas on June 3, 2007, in a full field of maidens racing over 5-½ furlongs. Starting in the tough one hole, he hit the rail and went to the back of the pack but recovered quickly to win by 10-¼ lengths. After that monster effort, bids for the horse started coming. “Firstly we refused to sell him, but on Tuesday, June 12, the horse agent John McCormack appeared in my office with the mission to acquire Café Silver, and we agreed on an unprecedented amount for a maiden race winner, $700,000” said Isidori. “Days after, the deal fell through because the horse missed a vet exam by an English man with the discrepancy of eminent local vets.”
In July, Café Silver was entered in the Clasico Guzman Vargas over six furlongs, winning with authority by 5-½ lengths in 1:09 and change. The horse felt the effort, but his connections decided to try the Triple Crown even though he was not in the best shape. Forced to run while in subpar condition, the horse managed to finish second in the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Polla de Potrillos over a mile, behind Rasputin, a horse who incredibly never won again. In the second leg, the Gran Premio Jockey Club over 1-¼ miles, the horse improved but again finished second by three-quarters of a length to Rock Ascot, a nice horse that won the Gran Premio Jose Pedro Ramirez (GI) later in 2008, the most important race in Uruguayan racing. Finally, justice was served in the third leg when Café Silver returned to his true racing condition and handily won the Gran Premio Nacional (GI) over 12-1/2 furlongs, beating Rock Ascot and Relento, a horse who became the champion of Maronas years later.
After Café Silver’s superb performance in the “Nacional,” bids to buy the horse were showered upon his owner. Antonio Isidori stated, “There reappeared the interest on the purchase which was finally nailed down with Godolphin Stables in a price record for a horse born in our meadows.”
With great expectations, Café Silver was bound for Dubai, looking for the best races in route distance, but the horse suddenly disappeared from the scene and was not named for a while. A reason soon emerged: “When he was in Miami waiting to ship to Dubai, he suffered a sesamoid fracture that sidelined him,” Isidori stated.
Two years later, when everybody thought Café Silver was retired, he incredibly reappeared in a $6,250 claiming event at Turf Paradise over six furlongs being ridden by Jake Barton, trained by Mike Chambers, and owned by Three Sisters Thoroughbreds and John Xitco. Running as a first-time gelding, a totally different Café Silver was no threat in the race and finished last.
In his second American start, he dropped in class to a $3,000 claiming race over 5-½ furlongs, improving enough to finish fifth while being claimed by James G. Rhodes. Café Silver, now with new connections, entered another $3,000 claiming race over five furlongs. This time he fulfilled the old quote of “Third time’s the charm,” winning gate-to-wire under jockey Miguel Hernandez for trainer Dennis Sowers. After that victory, the horse moved to Yavapai Downs, a minor racetrack located in Prescott Valley, Arizona, where he won some races and always hit the board at the bottom level in $2,500 claiming races.
One day, Café Silver’s owner went to a bar that had OTB (Off Track Betting). There he met Kelly Hayes, the girl in charge of the bar, and told her about the horse. “I grew up with horses and ride jumpers, but I know nothing about horse racing. In fact, at the time when I first heard of this horse, I was tending bar, and his owner said, ‘Bet on my horse; he’s sure to win.’ So I did it and found it to be true. As the year went on, every time he raced, I could not help but stop and watch him.” Kelly said.
Since that race, Kelly Hayes has been in love with Café Silver, and she told her parents about him so that when possible they could watch the gray’s races in the OTB parlor. Finally, Kelly’s parents and Café Silver’s owner met and planned a visit to watch the horse. “I had to work and could not go, but my mother and father came back with a real sense of excitement,” Kelly said. “I then told Jimmy (James) I would like to buy him when he’s ready to sell”
Later, due to personal reasons, Café Silver’s owner did have to sell him, and Kelly did not miss that opportunity. Because James was going to ship Café Silver to elsewhere, Kelly only had a few days to find the money, but with great effort and her parents’ support, she bought the horse for $3,000.
“The first time I saw him in real life, he was in a very dirty, messy backyard of someone’s home. I threw a saddle on him, and away we went in the mud. He was just perfect,” Kelly expressed. She then took him to the stable where she kept her other horse, a little red Missouri Fox Trotter named Jazzy.
Kelly wanted Café Silver as a jumping horse, but as a thoroughbred the gray just wanted to run and run all day. He plowed down sixty feet of steel fencing because he would not stop running. “Magically, he only had a scratch. The vet said he should have been killed. Now we never turn him out without keeping an eye on him.”
After that episode, Kelly took it slowly with the gray, first practicing easy groundwork and giving lots of love. Within a week they were trotting alone in the open area behind the stables. Then they began to train and work in preparation for a jumper show until the horse was ready to compete with the approval of the veterinarian. “Our vet is overwhelmed with Café’s ability to get back up after a hard time. His legs are very strong, and the vet thinks they are stronger now than when he was a baby.”
In his first show, Café Silver was very brave and did not mind anything, jumping everything as if he had done it all his life. He finished in a very creditable second-place, an impressive finish for a first time starter in jumping shows.
After that performance, the horse continued doing very well in jumping shows, but when he was in his best shape, a new injury appeared. “I found him lying one morning kind of different with his leg out. I made him stand, and he was limping,” Kelly expressed. “The vet said I would never be able to ride him again due to back soreness, but I never gave up. I just started slowly hand-walking and stretching him. Seeing him progress, I moved up to riding him at a walk for six months. I did this every morning before work while giving him all the time he needed to recover. Fortunately, the vet said he should hopefully make a full recovery.”
Café Silver is not competing now, but he likes to train three or four days a week. Without his workouts, he tends to get into trouble. The gray is living a new life, and he loves the nearby river and lake; in the summer, he loves to swim to beat the Arizona heat. Besides jumping, he likes to trail ride with his little buddy Jazzy, and the two are very happy together. As a typical habit of his new life, Café Silver whinnies when his owners come to the barn with a red lunch box because he knows there is an apple or carrot inside. The gray loves children and lets them brush and curry him.
Café Silver certainly won the lottery – he is enjoying every day of his life surrounded by people who love him. Kelly Hayes stated, “I love this horse. He is my heart and soul, and I owe him my life and happiness.”
Lady and The Track would like to thank Kelly Hayes, her mother Penny Swearengin, Antonio Isidori and @cabeza1979 who contributed to build this story in addition to all who tried to help.
Video: Café Silver is now doing great physically. He has an easy rhythm, perfect for jumpers.