Little 'Circles' Is Thinking Big

Published: August 12, 2011 11:31 am EDT

John Smith has a secret that he is not sharing with two-year-old trotting filly Circles, especially not before Monday’s $130,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Gold final at Mohawk Racetrack


“She’s not real big, but she doesn’t know it, and I’m not going to tell her,” the resident of Woodlawn, Ont. said with a chuckle.

So far, the filly’s diminutive size has not prevented her from making an impact on the OSS scene. Through five starts, the daughter of Majestic Son and super-broodmare Merles Image has scored three Gold elimination wins and finished second in two Gold finals, banking $125,000 for Smith, who bred, owns and trains the filly.

“I’m pretty happy with her,” he said. “She has a big stride for a little mare, a very big stride for a little mare.”

Regular reinsman Jacques Hebert will steer Circles from Post 5 in Monday’s Gold final, a vast improvement over the Post 8 she landed in the Gold final at Grand River Raceway on July 11 and the Post 7 she drew for the Gold final at Flamboro Downs on July 27. Smith is looking forward to seeing how the young trotter performs from a mid-pack post, and added that each start gives the filly more experience and Hebert greater options.

“For little while you just had to steady her a little sometimes at high speed, but I always felt there was lots of horse there, she just needed a little more experience at trotting high speeds, and she’s getting there now,” he explains. “I always felt there was plenty of horse there you know, it’s just sometimes you have to be a little careful with some of the young trotters.”

Smith has raised and trained a series of impressive trotters from Merles Image, including last year’s freshman trotting colt division champion Buckhams Bay ($308,800) and $1.1 million winner McCooeye. The now 24-year-old mare failed to get in foal last year, and Smith expects Circles will be the last of her offspring.

“I think that’s my last golden egg probably,” he said. “She’s away, but they didn’t call me, so I guess she’s not in foal, and I’ve got a feeling she’s probably my last.

“I guess all good things have got to come to an end,” he added. “It will be sad to see her not have another one, but she gave me a lot of good ones, so I can’t complain.”

When Circles was a foal, Smith and his wife, Helen, may have uttered the odd complaint as they searched for a name for Merles Image’s latest offspring. Smith admitted that he threw the idea of Circles out more as a joke than as a serious suggestion, but something about it appealed to Helen, and Smith has said he has also grown to like the rather unusual moniker.

“Sometimes it’s hard to get names off,” Smith explained. “And I came in one day and I said, ‘Ah, I’m always going in circles, why don’t we just call her circles.’ I just said it more or less joking, and the next thing I knew Helen was sending in the name, she kind of liked it.

“It’s funny it kind of grows on you, too. I didn’t think much of it at first, but now it seems to kind of suit her and I kind of like it. Often that’s the way,” he continued. “I often said, if it’s a good horse — no matter what the name on it — the name sounds pretty good after a while. If a good horse has got it, it’s got to grow on you, it wouldn’t matter what the name was, pretty near.”

Circles and her peers will square off in Race 5 on Mohawk Racetrack’s Monday evening program — which gets underway at 7:10 pm — with all 10 fillies hoping to achieve the sort of stature that allows their name to be recognized by harness racing fans across the province.

To view the entries for Monday's card of live racing, click the following link: Monday, Mohawk Racetrack.


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