Paige Gilster, 25, formerly of Kenyon, Minnesota was going to attend the fan-less Kentucky Derby tomorrow.  The 2013 Kenyon-Wanamingo High School graduate now is an Assistant Manager of Timber Town Stables in Lexington, Kentucky.  She and her father had a mare that gave birth to a horse entered in this year's Kentucky Derby.

Gilster tells KDHL unfortunately the horse, Finnick the Fierce was taken out of the race because the State Veterinarian thought he might have a sore leg.  The story is still amazing though and she's taking it in stride realizing it's all part of the horse racing business.  You can listen to the interview we did when the horse was scheduled to be in the #1 pole position at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

While at I-S-U Gilster worked in the horse barns as part of the equine program.  In the fall of 2013 she took her first trip to Lexington and fell in love with the Thoroughbred industry.  The class would take seven or eight Thoroughbred mares to Kentucky to breed, then bring them back to Iowa to foal them out.

"I really fell in love with the breeding and creating the race horses.  So I worked in the horse barns my entire college career.  Right after I got back from Lexington I told my dad (Jeff), for my birthday the next year I wanted to go down to the big September Keeneland sale.  Every year Keeneland Race Track holds a huge yearling sale where they catalog about 3,000 horses and buyers from all over the world come to spend a lot of money."

Gilster added, "I think last year the sale topper was over 8.2 million dollars and there are other horses that top a million dollars as well.  I told dad I want to make horses and sell at the high levels and race at the high levels.  So in November of 2014 my father and I started Blue-Sky Stables.  In the spring of 2015 we got our first horse, Southern Classic at a rescue facility in North Dakota and purchased the mare for $500."

In 2016, Paige bred her new broodmare to Dialed In.  The result was a colt with a bad eye that she and her father named Finnick the Fierce.

"I was there when Finnick was born and my vet Dr. Arnaldo Monge took an interest in the foal, bought it and took out it's eye.  He told me after the surgery the horse must have been in some discomfort previously because it was a more spirited horse following the surgery."

Having the #1 position isn't as good as it sounds.  Gilster explains those in the horse racing industry say, "He drew the rail. He's going to have 17 horses trying to pinch him in to get to that rail because it's the quickest way to the finish line.

She says a one eyed horse has raced in the Kentucky Derby before, "Most recently in 2017 and ironically from the #1 post position.  I think this will be the fourth time in the history of the Derby.  It's very special to us obviously and it's something that is a little bit different because Fin has probably had no vision since birth and  the other horses lost their vision while training or older."

I asked Paige how much of the horse racing business is the breeding and she replied, "It's the start of the whole thing.  It's hard to put a percentage on it because you wouldn't have the race horses if there wasn't breeders creating these.  There are multiple steps involved.  The breeding, the sales and the training.  Multiple aspects but it's really the backbone of the industry."

She added, "I really love the bloodlines and looking at two horses and trying to determine what their offspring is going to be.  Deciding what the best route to go would be for the buck.  Obviously we have stallions in Kentucky alone that range from $1,000 to $150,000 in a stud fee."

The mare purchased for $500 might bring $100,000 now after being the mother of a Kentucky Derby runner so Paige and her father are considering selling Southern Classic.  The stallion (Dialed In) stud fee was $7,500 when they arranged the breeding and a year later was $30,000.

I asked the Kenyon-Wanamingo High School graduate how the name was chosen.  "I had called him Fin from birth. When he would be stubborn with me it became Finnick and I had a conversation with my dad about naming the horse.  He asked what are you thinking and I said it needs to be something strong, or fierce, something that's just powerful."

"Dad responded with, it needs to roll off the tongue when it comes down the stretch.  It needs to sound good as he's coming to the finish line.  I said what about Finnick the Fierce and he said yes that's the one we're going to choose."

Accomplished jockey Martin Garcia was going to ride Finnick the Fierce Saturday in a year where a number of the top jockeys have chosen to stay away because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  "He loves Fin just as much as we do and he asked us if he could ride him during the Derby.  We were all for it.  We were very excited for Martin to be on him.

"It really is a dream come true and it's a dream come true much earlier than we ever anticipated."  Well that dream is being pushed back a bit but Gilster

Finnick the Fierce was 50 to 1 to win the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately that won't happen this year.


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