12 Years Old, 45 Races, 10 Different Trainers, Has Never “Won” – And Yet They Still Keep Forcing Him Out There

Abuse, thy name is horseracing.

Sweet Circle was born in May 2008. Curiously, his first race didn’t come till over five years later – September 29, 2013, at Mount Pleasant in Michigan. He finished second-to-last for trainer Alison Krul and owner Lauren Steen. Next race came two months later at Beulah in Ohio: dead last, 25 lengths back. Same owner, new trainer – George Iacovacci Sr. Next time out, in January 2014, “did not finish.” Oh, and yet another new trainer: Kristi Van Meter. Quite a start, huh?

The Steen/Van Meter team ran Sweet Circle six more times, then Van Meter handed him off to yet another trainer, Jimmy Williams. At this point, Sweet Circle was running “maiden claiming” – “For Sale” every time out, and still without a “win.” In August 2014, Steen brought him back to Michigan to be raced at Hazel Park – under another new trainer, Ray Patton. Back to Ohio in October, at which point Steen assumed the trainer’s role herself. On September 20, 2015, SC’s price tag had plummeted to $3,500.

A year later in Illinois, Iacovacci returned as trainer (Steen still owner). In April 2017, Steen brought in another trainer – Roger Salvino. On May 19, Steen was back training; in that race, Sweet Circle finished last, 27 lengths back. Next time out, 35 lengths back. On April 7, 2018, Steen raced the now-nine-year-old a mere seven days after his previous race. Outcome: last, 45 back. He was then sold.

On June 19, 2018, Sweet Circle ran his first race for trainer/owner Robert Fiesman. He was then sold back to Steen. Several races later, sold again – to Richard King; Robert Pompell, trainer. Five races for this pair followed, the last two of which SC finished last and last, a combined 37 lengths back. Then nothing. Until, that is, Tuesday.

After being off the charts for over a year, Sweet Circle resurfaced under – you guessed it – Lauren Steen. The result from Fairmount is what you might expect for a 12-year-old coming off a 14-month layoff: last (of 10), some 20 lengths back. But it’s worse still: Tuesday’s race was a “maiden claiming” (and a cheap $4,000 one, at that). Yes, that’s right, in a “career” going back seven years and 45 races, Sweet Circle has never finished first. Not once. And yet, Lauren Steen et al. keep throwing him back out there. They do because there’s still money to be made: That woeful finish Tuesday still garnered $93 for Steen, as Fairmount pays first-last. Oh, and of course he’s under the yoke of yet another new trainer, Michelle Booker. (By my count, that makes 10 different trainers, 11 trainer changes, and at least five times sold.)

This poor, poor animal. This vile, vile industry.

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  1. This is so unspeakably cruel. I wish we could rescue him and retire him. At this rate, he will undoubtedly either be injured and euthanized or end up in the slaughter pipeline. Just infuriating.

  2. Seeing who is involved in this sick exploitation of Sweet Circle, I’m not a bit surprised. I’m also not surprised that industry members are not voicing how “appalled” they are with SC’s disturbing circumstances like they did with Green Gratto and Star Plus (another Iacovacci former racing slave) – Green Gratto and Star Plus made the news in racing publications…Sweet Circle will not because the industry only “cares” about the “accomplished” (of course WE know it’s the publicity that drives the exclamations of industry concern).

    Back when Star Plus was in the racing news (and before I was banned from the Paulick Report), I was able to reply to Kelly Spanabel and George Iacovacci regarding what they did to Star Plus and how it was merely their MO – I’ve provided a portion of my comment below. The horses I mentioned are just a handful of the many they crippled (and killed) – we know it, racing knows it – yet they continue to be licensed to abuse horses. Legally.

    “Whitmark; this gelding you raced could not even lie down because he couldn’t flex his damaged joints. After diagnostics by Dr. John Stick, DVM, Chief of Staff at Michigan State University Large Animal Hospital, his prognosis was a life of pain and increasing debilitation…euthanasia was all that could be done for Whitmark.

    “Sunder Bay; raced by you with a known bowed tendon, after which the little gelding hobbled 3-legged onto my trailer, all the while you and George exclaimed “He just needs a little time off”. Again, Dr. Stick’s examination and an US revealed 90% of the tendon/connective apparatus were torn from the bone. Sunder Bay was euthanized, ending the suffering he endured.

    “Winds of Love; this aging gelding was pushed to his limits by you, as well. Racing with screws in an ankle for 4 years, he, too, limped onto my trailer less than 12 hours after his last race. Dr. Stick’s diagnostics revealed severe end-stage arthritis, with a prognosis not compatible with a comfortable life even as a pasture pet. Winds of Love was euthanized.

    “Magic Conqueror; after you sold him as sound for 2K to an unsuspecting party, he came up lame within days. A vet’s full examination revealed MC was not sound even for light trail. After your refusal to take the gelding back and refund her money, MC came into the CANTER-Mi program but was subsequently euthanized due to multiple and repeated joint injuries.

    “Buckflanker; this 4 year old gelding, also just “needing a little time off”, according to you and George, had bilateral knee fractures diagnosed at MSU…he, too, required euthanasia.

    “Say Yes Dear; starting to sound like a broken record here??…yes, SYD was purchased to end the downward spiral the two of you put him on. Nothing could be done for him to ensure a comfortable life, and he was euthanized.”

    Sweet Circle – ANOTHER racehorse who suffers in silence.

    • Thank you for sharing this information, Joy. I have no information about SWEET CIRCLE other than what is posted here. I am wondering about his soundness. I wonder if they “trained” him as a baby (18-months-old) and injured him before taking him to a race track at the age of five-years-old…?

      • Wanda, Is there a reliable way for outsiders to keep track of a horse? I have never tried it.

      • Melnickt, good question. I don’t have the answer. I’m still wondering about what price SWEET CIRCLE started out at since Patrick stated that this horse’s claiming price dropped/ plummeted to $3,500 on September 20, 2015.

  3. It would cost more money to keep this horse, or any horse, than what they could possibly be paid for finishing last. I think these people in horseracing must be demented beyond belief. Who would bet on this horse if they checked out his past performances? This horse would probably make a great pasture pet and companion. Possibly, he would be a good trail riding horse for someone. At least, they didn’t race him as a baby, which is a good thing among all of the bad things about racing horses. I’m guessing that SWEET CIRCLE has ulcers with the changes in trainers and the lifestyle that he is being forced to endure.

    • Yes, ulcers are a safe bet. And another safe bet is, he will not be treated for them. Even in the “better barns” ulcer prevention is not a priority and, as far as I know, scoping is rarely if ever done in spite of the wide spread of ulcer causing meds. not to mention the lifestyle and stress involved.

      I know of a grade 1 winner with earnings of $1.5 million that had colic surgery and was found to be riddled with ulcers. This occurred right before he retired and he was in one of the “better barns”!!! We can only imagine what these “low level” claimers endure going from barn to barn, being injected, getting Phenylbutazone (bute) and God knows what else to keep them on the track. Racing at every level, from the big “winners” to the claiming ranks, does not care about horse welfare. Any money spent on “treatments” for these horses is solely geared to keep them running.

      These people are cruel. Any decent individual can see racing for what it is, downright evil exploitation in the extreme. All racing supporters bettors and apologists are as guilty as the hands on perpetrators.

      P.S. Sweet Circle did not race until he was 5, probably because he was considered not worth while or something was wrong. Why has it taken 7 years and 45 starts to prove he is not able to race…racing is an enigma!
      However, it always come down to “follow the money” (whether obvious or not!) and, of course, the pervasive gambling mentality.

      • It puzzles me why they didn’t send SWEET CIRCLE to a racetrack at the age of 2-years-old or 3-years-old, but, after thinking of how racing people are hell-bent to exploit horses and, as you mentioned, the cruelty, it seems logical that they could have caused an injury to him at a very young age that took a lot of time to heal. It’s possible that he should have had expensive veterinary care but the owner/s were too cheap to get him the proper care. I’m guessing because I don’t have all of the facts about SWEET CIRCLE.

      • Rose…..this is why I have ALWAYS said claimers deserve the MOST attention. The poor dear souls who have been through MORE. Do the right thing…it’s called FAIRNESS and JUSTICE.

  4. All cheap claiming races have to be abolished. Anything under $50,000. That would effectively eliminate 80% of horse races in the United States. And that would eliminate the urge to enter horses in races when they are lame risking their lives for a share of a paltry purse. It has to be more cost effective to rest and rehabilitate than to take a chance on a horse’s life. And to add to that, every horse on the racetrack has to be insured for medical and surgical and the race tracks have to make a rule that every trainer has to carry insurance or he is suspended. The insurance companies will take care of the culling of trainers who break horses down on the racetrack. Because it can be prevented and it will be.

    • Mary you seem to support the “reform” approach to horse racing when this site unequivocablly supports the abolishment of horse racing.
      Nevertheless, you spell out a plan to end the “claimng ranks,” and I found it laughable because it’s so not doable.
      Horse racing requires both claiming and kill pens for their disposable gambling chips and that will never change.
      Furthermore, your talking about an industry that can’t even agree on Lasix, that facilitates multiple doping, cheating, kiling Trainers.
      Anyways, I really don’t want to waste any more time, but your suggestions will never happen and like Alan’s response: “just abolish horse racing.”
      Full stop.

  5. That is absolutely ridiculous these people in the race business are money hungry nothing but GREED.

  6. Michelle Booker should not even have a license. Her own daughter pulled TWO of her horses from a kill pen a year ago. Call FP 618-345-4300 and ask WHY they are not enforcing their NO SLAUGHTER policy.

  7. Sad and sick that’s so-called humans only thing about money no matter how painful it is for the horse.

  8. This is an aged racehorse and to me seems very unusual. I guess most horses at this age are packed onto a meat truck or left in a “back pasture” to wither away with minimal care. Sweet Circle has had so many chances to be in front of people…how could she not be noticed and claimed by a rescue or as a pasture mate. It seems miraculous that she has endured this long….God bless her stamina and hopefully she will be rewarded with a lovely retirement. Please keep us updated on her story.

    • First, Sweet Circle is a he, not a she.

      Rewarded with a lovely retirement?????????

      Is this your first time reading about this issue and the God-awful existence of virtually ALL of these poor horses?
      Almost NONE of them have a lovely retirement – after lives full of pain and abuse at the hands of brutal trainers and heartless owners.

      It all needs to end.

  9. Bless his heart. Get him the hell outts there, this is just so cruel and the perpetrators should be punished. So damn sad. Money is the root of ALL evil.

  10. As a horse owner for over 30 years, I don’t see how people involved in this industry can sleep at night. It’s nothing more than a bloodsport, it should be illegal, it’s just as inhumane as dog fighting.

  11. This is really pathetic this poor poor animal I used to be a fan of horseracing no longer though over past few years finding more and more tragic disgusting cruel and completely unnecessary behavior is is imperative we stop these people ( who claim to live horses).

  12. That some people can consider horse-racing as ‘entertainment,’ at the expense of the shocking suffering of these horses, is truly degrading to humanity. Horse-racing is not a ‘sport’, it is as cruel to horses as is the misery inflicted on animals that are used and abused in the circus industry. SHAME!

  13. And where is Sweet Circle today? Is he still alive? What a horrible life for this poor horse. Greed is a horrible thing! And of course the poor horse is paying the price! Oh God I pray you will make these people pay on Judgment Day. God bless the animals. 🐎

  14. They used to retire them and sell them to legitimate buyers when that happened. It’s how I got my first horse when I was 12 yo. He was the most fabulous horse that I will never forget. He was sweet and loving. Everyone should be so lucky to have him as their horse.

  15. Gia, That is what I want to know. Is there any way to save this horse? I don’t want to just complain about things without being able to do something. I would be willing to donate or even offer a home.

  16. Hi there, Lauren Steen here, owner of sweet circle, barn name baby. I could tell you good life story since I’ve owned him 10 plus years, but, we all know that’s a waste of time. Anyhow, to all you bleeding hearts il offer him up for sale to you, just this one time before I torture him some more, for the rock bottom price of 50k since one of you believes this should be the lowest claimer out there it seems appropriate. If you want my number comment back, the only catch is u ride him once, without him throwing u off for 30 min. And promise in writing you keep him forever.

    • Too bad you’re not a bleeding heart. Guess you enjoy watching your horse’s heart get broken by getting his ass beat by trailing in double digit lengths behind the rest of the field, and to be subjected to the likes of Iacovacci and spanabel.

    • Lauren Steen…
      – the fact you’ve had Iacovacci (whose crippled-up horses we would have to buy in order to get them safely off the track before licensed racing owner/kill buyer Jaron Gold got his hands on them) as a trainer tells me everything I need know about Sweet Circle’s future. Iacovacci’s demands we pay hundreds for horses so crippled they weren’t even pasture-sound were ridiculous. But the typical cheap racing owner’s/trainer’s practice is to eek out every dime from the sale and/or discarding of their used-up horses. Iacovacci actually boasted about “running horses with bows” on the Detroit-based WXYZ/Channel 7 hidden camera investigation into MI horseracing back in 2007 – many in racing even admit he shouldn’t be licensed. And he’s your trainer…

      – be an adult and at least act like you’re a horsewoman in regards to your offer. You won’t have to be concerned about someone riding him (not that I believe you really give a crap). And a “forever home”? – do you actually know what that is?

      Want a reasonable offer? – you just let me know.

    • Oh, look, everybody: we’ve got another one! It’s always such a pleasure when those loving connections come here to try to sarcastically explain away their animal abuse. See how very convincing they are? I’m sure Ms. Steen isn’t implying her promising young racehorse has behavior problems from his years of isolation and abuse, is she? We all know that’s unheard of. In fact, he probably deserves all the horrible things done to him at the track over the years. Just a bad seed, that one.

      • Kellie, I too was just waiting for her to pop up, and I have to say, Patrick, I am impressed at how many pro racing people are here and reading these stories.
        What I find amusing is that we are challenged to ride this poor horse for 5 minutes, because he’s apparently some crazy wild raging beast, but apparently he’s ok carting around some weasel jockeys.
        And doing it verrrrrrrry slowly and extremely noncompetitively??

    • The fact that you think “bleeding heart” is an insult says pretty much everything anyone needs to know about you. People who abuse the defenseless are despicable. People who abuse those that depend on them are despicable. Those who abuse the defenseless who also depend on them are beyond despicable.

    • Lauren — PLEASE — transfer Sweet Circle to a Horse Sanctuary where he can live out a happy life with other Horses and People — PLEASE — NOT every aspect of your life should be about the bottom line — you’re making enough money in this industry — DO THE RIGHT THING — for one second, forget your own ego, and DO something GOOD for Sweet Circle — God knows, he’s done so much for you and your kind — PLEASE — send him to a loving Horse Sanctuary.

        • you’re probably right — so be it — whatever her situation, we all want what’s best for Sweet Circle — SC needs someone to look out for him and all decisions made MUST benefit his well-being — HOW she’s living her life-style is none of my business; BUT let’s get SC out of her clutches and into a situation where he’s respected and loved.

      • I looked up Lauren Steen online yesterday and it appears that someone else must be paying the bills for her, because her “earnings” or “winnings” listed would not support her habit nor feed one horse adequately in addition to other necessary expenditures.

        • you’re probably right — so be it — whatever her situation, we all want what’s best for Sweet Circle — SC needs someone to look out for him and all decisions made MUST benefit his well-being — HOW she’s living her life-style is none of my business; BUT let’s get SC out of her clutches and into a situation where he’s respected and loved.

    • Ms. Steen, did you actually say you would offer him up for $50,000? Do you not realize that in his last race SC was running for a $4,000 tag? Are you delusional? That is a rhetorical question because we already know the answer,

    • Ill take him and offer him a home with a few other Off the tracks i have taken. He will not need to ride again. So been thrown off is not an issue. He would stay with me forever.
      This in all sense and purposes is his retirement. I accept the incredible health issues that comes with him.

  17. Why in heaven’s name do they continue to make this poor animal race? Surely they could retire this innocent creature and let it live out the rest of his/her days in peace.

  18. Nothing but pure greed and cruelty!!! This is so unbelievable and disgusting!! All horse racing should be banned!! They exploit these beautiful animals for the money and nothing gets done about it! Should be outlawed!!!!! These horses need a voice and to be allowed to live the life they are so deserving of.

  19. Shame on all the people involved in this poor horse’s life. Let some give him a good safe life for a change. Give him to a rescue organization to do that. May the owners and trainers involved rot in hell.

  20. This is disgusting and cruel and money hungry should have the horse taken from him and the owner should be banned from ever having an animal and banned from horse racing forever. Please save this poor horse and put in a sanctuary for horses where he will be loved and looked after🤬

    • And in addition to setting Sweet Circle free if only his connections could be set free of their warped minds. There are too many other voiceless like Sweet Circle to be preyed upon.

      • Exactly, Rose…helping racehorses like Sweet Circle laboring on the track (and all of his “brothers and sisters” in kill pens and in racehorse rescue and placement organizations waiting for loving homes) is a full time job.

  21. Oh God — how heartbreaking — if only I could swoop in, quickly lead him out, place him in a Truck, and off we go to a Sanctuary where Sweet Circle can get the good life he deserves — it is CLEAR, they do NOT give a damn — they should be ashamed of themselves — I’m assuming they’re enlightened, educated, living well and YET, they engage in such depraved cruelty — it doesn’t take much thought and consideration to treat Animals well — do these IDIOTS have a blockage of some sort — NOTE : while we are trying to SHUT DOWN Horse-racing, there should be a LAW in place NOW so that Horses like Sweet Circle can be rescued and taken out of their HELL-HOLE in this Industry — with a LAW, negotiations can take place and have SC removed from his miserable situation.

  22. Poor sweet boy. My heart breaks for him. At 12 he should be enjoying lots of hay and grass.

  23. This poor boy should be enjoying leisurely trail rides with a devoted caregiver/companion.

  24. I am surprised this horse is not dead yet given the way they kill younger ones. Maybe not ruining him when he was younger helped but for sure it’s time to get him out of the abusive ownership and round robin of sucking every last drop of money out of him before destroying him entirely. Why aren’t these owners charged with abuse? What can you say other then horse owners suck as human beings. Put them out of business once and for all

    • Oh my — how cruel — how much is this payout? — how much could it possibly be considering how Insurance works? — the compassionate, sane thing to do would be to send Sweet Circle to Sanctuary along with a monetary donation — I mean, for the love of God, you have to give something back to the Horses — I mean, such people are beyond “human” — again, the more I learn, the more I KNOW — SHUT DOWN this Industry — but, it’s taking too long (for my taste) — let’s DO something at every step to alleviate misery for the Horses — no matter how small or large the suffering, let’s DO something to alleviate their pain — for starters, let’s get these Horses out of the clutches of these MONSTERS whenever we can.

    • Ann, do you have any proof that there is an insurance policy on SWEET CIRCLE? He is a horse that has never broke his maiden (never won a race) and is being put up for sale in claiming races. The insurance premiums would have to be paid up in order for the insurance coverage to be valid. I would be surprised if anyone is paying to have an insurance policy on any lower level claimer, including this horse.

  25. Sweet Circle is “for sale.” You can “retire” him via the claiming process which, of course, is predicated on the poor horse’s continued exploitation in the claiming game.

  26. About four and a half years ago, Ms. Jen Roytz, a former paid mouthpiece for Ray Paulick, wrote a “feel good” story about a 12 year old boy claiming a 12 year old horse by the name of Good Credentials. Ms. Roytz joined forces with Ms. Gail Hirt as well as Ms. Jennifer Wirth, a “boutique” attorney in Chicago, to write her story which venerated the boy’s parents, George Iacovacci and Kelly Spanabel. Roytz admitted to me that she didn’t know these people personally and had heard some conflicting reports about them yet STILL decided to write an Aftercare Spotlight article about two of the most reprehensible people in the industry. To praise two individuals who have ZERO regard for horses under their jurisdiction didn’t sit well with me so in January, 2018, I wrote a Shedrow Secrets for this blog and the link to the story is below.


    I felt it was necessary to present the facts in order to repudiate an attempt by Roytz, Hirt and Wirth to paint this couple in a favorable light.

    • Mary, thank you for the post and the links.
      The sad stories expose the ugly reality of racing and the predators responsible for such misery and cruelty. Even worse, it illustrates how a professional promoter of this business ignored due diligence in order to write a superficial feel good story about a 12 yr. old child.

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