Circles Sold; Smith Recovering

Published: January 19, 2012 09:57 pm EST

John Smith isn’t sure yet whether he’ll attend this month’s O’Brien Awards, where his homebred filly Circles is a finalist for two-year-old filly trotter

. It’s not because he doesn’t want to be there, but because he’s still on the mend from cancer surgery two weeks ago.

“Three or four days ago, it would have been a definite no. I felt so rotten. But now that I’m up and walking around again, I think maybe I will,” Smith, 67, said from his farm near Ottawa in Woodlawn, Ont.

Circles - OSS Gold Final win at Mohawk

Circles, sold privately by Smith a few weeks ago, is his second homebred to earn an O’Brien nomination. McCooeye, the millionaire trotter who dominated the Quebec scene a decade ago, also was a finalist at 2 and 3.

Both are offspring of Smith’s remarkable broodmare Merles Image, who also has produced stakes winners Potato Race, Magoo, Merles Pearl, Local Traffic and Buckhams Bay. Collectively, they’ve generated about $3 million in earnings and propelled Smith to an eye-catching lifetime win percentage as trainer in excess of 30 per cent.

“Gee, she’s been good,” Smith said. “The money she’s made on the track and through sales really changed our life.”

The horse Smith considered her best foal, however, never raced. He was called Neighbourly, a son of Pearsall Hanover.

“I don’t usually get excited about a horse, but that one was an exception. I thought he could win the Hambletonian. He was never sick a day. And then a few days before his first qualifier, after jogging a couple of miles, he just fell over and died. I was so discouraged when I came in that day I wanted to just stop everything. I told (wife) Helen ‘I’m not putting a strap on another horse. I’m done’.”

In time, he resumed his harness racing operation, and was rewarded with excellent seasons on the Ontario circuit from Buckhams Bay ($297,500 in 2010) and Circles ($325,117) in 2011.

But with only a couple of racehorses left, and no other Merles Image foal in the pipeline, he expects to take things a little easier from this point.

“I’ve cut down a lot. I’ve been awfully lucky in the horse business and I’ll be 68 in April. Maybe it’s time not to be tied down as much.”

(A Trot Insider exclusive by Paul Delean)



Sad to hear about you having to have Surgery John, but Up and Around already, Sounds good to me, Best of Luck to you my friend, I will be cheering for you, Hats off to you for CIRCLES !!!! Once again, you did a great job !!!

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