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Fister pair are favored in Kentucky Sire Stakes finals
Saturday, August 30, 2014 - by Kimberly French, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

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Kimberly French
Louisville, KY --- He’s been in the business for nearly five decades and certainly won some races, but for Walter Fister, the Kentucky Sire Stakes finals, worth a collective $1.4 million on Sunday (Aug. 31), will be anything but old hat. Especially since his homebreds, Cielle and Tinder, did not ever seem destined to compete for a $175,000 purse, let alone be the top choices in their respective contests.

“These races are definitely big,” said Fister, who bought his first horse in 1968 right after completing a tour of military service and college. “Two or three years ago, we bred a horse in the finals that had a chance to win and he had a stand up break on the backside, so after that it was all over.”

About the only two characteristics Cielle and Tinder share is they were bred on Fister’s 100 acre farm right outside of Georgetown, Ky., and each captured the first two $15,000 legs of their sire stakes engagements earlier this month.

Cielle, a 2-year-old pacer, is a daughter of Third Straight and the Jenna’s Beach Boy mare Caroline. She has compiled a record of 8-6-2-0, earned $22,000 and set her mark of 1:57.2 on Aug. 21 in her last start. Conditioned by Randal Jerrell, the filly will leave from the rail in the 12th race with Michael Pryor in the bike and is 8-5 on the morning line.

Tinder, a 3-year-old trotter, is a son of Valley Victor and the Pine Chip mare Expressive Chip. He was unraced as a freshman and sports a resume of 8-4-4-0 with $28,725 in the bank. The gelding, who is trained by Jeff Smith, established his lifetime mark of 1:55.4 in his last start on Aug. 24. He will start his journey over the red clay from post position nine in race seven as the 2-1 morning line selection. Tyler Smith will be holding the lines.

“I’m really not happy about that nine hole for Tinder,” Fister said. “That’s a very competitive race. Bob Stewart’s got a nice horse (Samburu) and the horse Randy Jerrell drove last week (Scacco Matto) showed a lot last week. He got hung wide the entire mile. Sorrento Hall is another one that can trot. But it is a horse race and even with the nine hole, I’m not throwing in the towel.”

For her first six miles, Cielle paced on the Kentucky Fair Circuit and won four times with two second place finishes. She has then gone on to add two more victories to her resume in both sire stakes legs with only Makeba Hall really able to go with her. In fact, that filly was favored on Aug. 21, but even if she had not been steppy in the stretch, she never would have caught Cielle.

“If you saw her at a sale you would never, ever have bought her,” Fister said. “She toed in severely and had a very crooked knee. She’s a third generation horse for me because I owned her mother, Caroline, and her grandmother.

Caroline was the same way too with toeing in and the offset knee but she was an iron horse. When she was a 3-year-old I sent her up to Canada and she raced almost 50 times (46). She earned $116,341 (in her career) the hard way because she was never staked to anything, but that knee never bothered her.

Cielle is like her mother and we never had any medical bills for either one of them when they were horses no one else would ever touch. You can’t sell them, but the knees and toes don’t seem to bother them.”

Fister believes Randy Jerrell’s work with the filly is why she has been so successful.

“Randy deserves all the credit,” he said. “I used to drive and I loved it, but I knew I wasn’t very good at it. I was a better trainer. You have to learn to admit your shortcomings and that was one of mine, but I used to race against Randy’s dad, Hugh.

Randy shoes his own horses, is a good driver and breaks horses really well. He does a magnificent job because there are very few horsemen in this world that can do all that. Any horse I have ever given him, he has done an excellent job.

I gave him two other 2-year-olds this year besides Cielle and we started them off at the fairs because I enjoy them. Also, I didn’t want to be too hard on them. We had 18 wins out of 20 starts with two seconds. It might be fair races but that is winning them. It also provided them with experience over the rough tracks, the merry-go-rounds and goings on at the fair.”

Tinder is in Jeff Smith’s barn, but Fister wasn’t certain he would ever make it out of the barn to a pari-mutuel race.

“He wasn’t sound,” Fister said. “He could go the wrong way on the track in two minutes but when you turned him the right way he just wouldn’t trot. I had several vets look at him and they did a couple things to him, but I decided to just shut him down with some turnout on the farm last year.

Then we brought him back this year and it was the same story. He just would not trot the right way around the track, but I read about the nuclear imaging they had at the Lexington Equine Surgery Center so I took him there to Dr. Wes Sutter. That’s the person that deserves all the credit for this horse. He performed nuclear imaging on Tinder and found the only thing wrong with him was a couple sore spots. We worked on those and then started racing him. No one else could pinpoint what the problem was and this was a little pricey, but it is pricey having horses in the first place and even more so when you can’t race them.”

Naturally, Fister will be on hand to see if his horses can snare those winning checks, but for him it is also about appreciating the efforts of something that brings him great pleasure.

“Friends and family will all be coming in for Sunday night, so they can watch and be there,” he said. “I have done things I have enjoyed all my life and am lucky to do so. Hopefully, I will be in the winner’s circle, but like I said before, it is horse racing. These two horses definitely have stories though.”

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