Silver Safari, a successful racehorse who became the face of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s sponsorship program, was humanely euthanized Tuesday, September 25 at the TRF’s Second Chances Farm at the Wallkill State Correctional Facility in New York. The New York-bred Northern Jove gelding was 27 and suffered from terminal cancer.
Trained for all but two of his 72 starts by the late Richie O’Connell, Silver Safari had a record of 11-12-10 in seven seasons. Silver Safari broke his maiden in the mud at Saratoga Race Course in 1994. By the time his career ended, Silver Safari would compete mainly in allowance and claiming races at seven different tracks with lifetime earnings of $351,979.
“Silver Safari’s barn antics were my favorite memories,” said Karly Thall, who worked for Very Un Stable and O’Connell. “His whinny was almost magical. He was a tenor with crystal clear resonance and he very melodic. He would sing and dance at the front of his stall at feed time in the afternoon until he got his feed tub.”
“He was the finest of race warriors in that he loved to look a horse in the eye all the way up the stretch then beat him by a head.”
It was at Saratoga that the flashy gray gelding found a lifelong friend in TRF volunteer Valerie Wasial. “I first saw him at Saratoga,” said Wasial. “He stepped onto the track and he was a steel-gray with a mother of pearl underlay. I was at the rail, and he came by and I said, `Oh, you’re beautiful!’ He looked at me, and I know this sounds crazy, but our eyes locked and I fell in love.”
Wasial followed Silver Safari’s career until he disappeared from the entries. She discovered that he had suffered an injury and was given time off to recover. It was then that she contacted O’Connell and said she would take Silver Safari when he could no longer race.
Silver Safari, who had not raced since December 1996, returned to Aqueduct in May 2000, and finished well out of the money after stumbling at the start. Now in the care of trainer Del Carroll II, he stumbled again in his next start at Belmont Park and was retired.
Wasial kept her promise and brought Silver Safari to her farm in Duanesburg, NY. She reached out to TRF for help when she determined that he needed more room to run. “I told them if they could find somewhere where he could be out and run, I would sponsor him for the rest of his life,” she said. Silver Safari arrived at Wallkill in October 2000, and Wasial visited him at least once a month for the next 18 years.
When he was laid to rest on Tuesday, she was at his side along with Wallkill’s Farm Manager Kelsey Kober. Wasial stated that “Safari ran with heart and guts; they all try so hard. It has been my honor to be Safari’s greatest fan and friend to the end.”
It was a solemn day at TRF’s Wallkill Second Chances Farm. “The inmates loved him; he was a huge part of their daily routines,” Kober said. “They came to enjoy his company and his calm personality. He was a friendly horse to be around.”