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Woodbine Winter Watch: Steven Chircop and Sahin Civaci

February 13, 2023

TORONTO, February 13, 2023 – Each week, in the lead-up to Opening Day (April 22) of the 2023 Woodbine Thoroughbred season, the Woodbine Communications department will spotlight Woodbine-based horses and horse people ahead of the new season.

From horses on the King’s Plate trail, to Woodbine trainers and jockeys sharing their views on 2022 and the upcoming campaign, to some of the stars to keep tabs on 2023, the Woodbine Winter Watch will cover key players, horses and horse people, at Canada’s Showplace of Racing.

In this week’s report, trainer Steven Chircop, off to an impressive start in 2023, shares his thoughts on keeping the momentum going once the Woodbine campaign gets out of the gates, and some of the stars in his barn.

Inside Track: Steve Chircop

  • 194 career wins
  • 2 stakes victories
  • Top horses include Kara’s Orientation, Medidocihospisurg, Uncle Joe, Three Ring Circus, and Kerics Beauty  
  • Set several personal-best marks in 2022, including wins (29), top-three finishes (99) and $995,542 (U.S.) in purse earnings

Early signs

“I think we knew that 2022 could be a good year for us when we had our first winner of the campaign, Uncle Joe, a horse that I bred and own with my father and my uncle. He’s an Ontario-sired and he won a maiden special weight open race. The purse was huge and we had high hopes for the horse, but you never know how the horses will do going from two and three, but that was probably one of the best wins of the year, to be able to start out that way. It was fantastic.”

Uncle Joe and jockey Gary Boulanger winning on May 1, 2022 at Woodbine
Uncle Joe and jockey Gary Boulanger winning on May 1, 2022 at Woodbine (Michael Burns Photo)

What might have been

“It was a great year and a frustrating year, all at the same time. I felt like every race all we did was run second. We ended up with 45 seconds in 2022, which is crazy, almost unheard of. There were so many close seconds, where we just missed. It was a career year and a great year, but if a couple of those seconds were wins it would have been even better. But I still feel blessed to have accomplished what we did.”

Winning mindset

“I started racing in the U.S. just before the 2022 Woodbine season ended. The first horse I ran down at Penn National in December, Romantic Gamble, won by five lengths. So, that was nice to get a win before we brought the full load of horses down there. There was about three weeks before the Woodbine meet came to a close and the 2023 season began, and we were able to have around four wins in that time. Obviously, with the new year, you hope for the best, but there are so many factors that come into play, things like horses not taking to the dirt, and other issues, but it’s been a fantastic run.”


“You have to work hard. One of my better horses from last year, Lido Key, who I claimed at Gulfstream, got hurt in her last work. We were going to race her in the Claiming Crown, but instead, we’re going to breed her. She’s a hard one to replace, but it’s all about replenishing the stock and being committed to having the type of season we had last year. Thankfully, all of my owners are back, so hopefully, we can get a few more horses and have a big year.”

Finish line

“I love what I do. I went down to Gulfstream to visit [fellow Woodbine trainers] Kevin Attard and Billy Tharrenos, but I was still managing everything at Penn National. It’s hard to be away from it. I love it and it’s a passion, so when you aren’t having to wake up in the early mornings, and have a little bit of leisure time, that’s the most ideal thing for me. It’s a vacation for me, but there’s horse racing still involved in it. That’s the perfect mix for me. I’m extremely fortunate to have such great people in my barn, which allows me to come here and know that everything is being taken care of. I trust them 100 percent.”

The Chircop Family
The Chircop Family

Jock Talk: Sahin Civaci

Stat pack 

  • 335 career wins
  • 21 stakes victories
  • Top horses include Il Malocchio, Candy Overload, Sandy Bay, War Bomber (IRE), Calgary Caper and Rockcrest
  • Won seven stakes at Woodbine in 2022, including the Grade 3 Seagram Cup with War Bomber (IRE), the Grade 3 Maple Leaf and La Prevoyante with Il Malocchio, and the Grade 2 Kennedy Road with Candy Overload

2022 highlights

“I had a really good year at Woodbine. My agent, Leroy Trotman, did an amazing job getting me into good barns. I started riding for Mark Casse and that gave me an opportunity to ride some very nice horses. I just felt very good about my riding as well. Throughout the year, I was just enjoying it so much. Coming to the end of the year, I was eyeing the top five and I got it the last week.”

Sahin Civaci and Candy Overload winning the Kennedy Road Stakes on November 27, 2022 at Woodbine
Sahin Civaci and Candy Overload winning the Kennedy Road Stakes on November 27, 2022 at Woodbine (Michael Burns Photo)

A Texas-sized opportunity

“My plan for the winter was to go to Oaklawn Park, and when I got there – I had been riding for Robertino Diodoro at Turf Paradise – so I wanted to contact him first. When I did, he had a chat with me and said he has horses at Sam Houston, and he introduced me to my agent here, Cody Autrey. He wanted me to ride all his horses at Sam Houston. It’s an offer that I couldn’t refuse. It was a great opportunity. I went home and thought about it first. I watched the races from there and it seemed like a great place to ride, and it would give me a chance to get some experience. So, coming into 2023, I did have that confidence from riding at Woodbine. Also, getting these opportunities and riding good horses helps a lot.”

2023 goals

“The first thing would be to improve my riding even more. I always watch the good jockeys, like Rafael Hernandez and Kazushi Kimura – they might not know that – and then take pieces of what they do well and bring it to my own riding. My first goal is to improve more than in 2022. Last year, I wanted to be in the top five, so I think this year, I will make that goal to be in the top three. Over the last couple years, I’ve learned to be more patient on horses, to find them the right spots and position them where they need to be. I really try hard. When the horse tries, I try even harder.”

Finish line

“I like watching anime a lot. When I’m not doing that, I like exploring the areas of the new cities that I’m riding in. I enjoy learning more about places I’ve never been to before. Most of the time, I like watching anime and just relaxing. I like to give my body and mind that time to rest. Riding four days a week, you need to recharge by relaxing as much as possible.”

Sahin Civaci for Woodbine
Sahin Civaci for Woodbine

2022 Race Rewind:

Watch Il Malocchio and Sahin Civaci take the Grade 3 Maple Leaf Stakes on November 12, 2022.

Click here ( watch the race.

Sahin Civaci and Il Malocchio winning the Maple Leaf Stakes on November 12, 2022 at Woodbine
Sahin Civaci and Il Malocchio winning the Maple Leaf Stakes on November 12, 2022 at Woodbine (Michael Burns Photo)

Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms


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