“I’m sorry. The mare you wanted was shipped to Pennsylvania. There was nothing I could do.”
The words so cold and final, appearing as a text message from the racehorse trainer, hit young Emma Brady hard as she sat down and cried.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I got this text the day before I was supposed to get papers for Don’t Skip the Café and make it official. She was supposed to be my first horse. And just like that, she was gone.”
Don’t Skip the Café
Barn name: Skip
Sire: Skip to the Stone
Dam: Café Latte, by Kipper Kelly
Foal date: March 27, 2007Brady had found the horse listed in an advertisement. There was no picture but something about the description intrigued her; perhaps her childhood memories of red bay mares on a farm from her childhood, too young and without the funds for a horse of her own, could only dream.
And so at Suffolk Downs this past November, as she eagerly approached the storied backside, those images snapped back in living color. “The moment I saw her I remembered riding similar Thoroughbreds at my grandmother’s country club. Skip looked just like one from my childhood.”
But the unexpected text just a few days later dashed her dream and Brady spent the weeks and months that followed searching for another horse. In April 2014, she thought she got lucky and purchased a gelding. But the animal wound up being more right for her friend, so she willingly gave the horse to her, privately pining for the mare she lost out on.
Unable to shake the feeling that the two belonged together, Brady took a shot and posted pictures of Don’t Skip the Café on Facebook with the question: Has anybody seen this horse? The response took but an hour, and the words she read this time stopped her cold. “Somebody wrote and said, ‘Yeah, I know that horse. I saw her this morning. She’s in training at Suffolk Downs.’ I couldn’t believe it! She was supposed to be in Pennsylvania, but one of her original owners bought her instead. She was still an hour north from my home!”
She did not waste a second. She asked to have her name passed along to Skip’s owner Louis Tisbert and by the morning of April 18; she was again driving to Suffolk Downs to see the horse who’d captured her heart.
Rising at 4 a.m., she appeared at the backside entrance promptly at 6 a.m., at the invitation of the 83-year-old owner. “We met in Barn 10 and I met Mr. Tisbert and we talked about the horse as he fed her peppermints,” she says. The older gentleman let her take the lead rope a couple of times and walk Skip back from workouts. “As I walked her onetime I overheard him tell another man, “That horse is such a ladies horse.”
And she was. Skip’s demeanor softened as soon as she stood next to Brady. She lowered her head and politely followed her young admirer on a loose rope.
Over the spring and summer, Brady arose at 4 a.m. to get to the track and watch the horse she loved. She became such a regular that when she arrived at the backside gate, the guards would quip, “Going to see your horse?”
And finally her dedication paid off. On a late September morning while driving to work at rush hour, her phone rang with the call she’d been waiting for. “I picked up the phone and it was Skip’s owner, and he said, ‘this is Louis Tisbert. Do you still want that horse?’ I couldn’t believe it. This is the horse I’ve been waiting for my whole life.”
And Brady took the mare home to Rhode Island in January—her dream had come true.