02/12/2007 1:00AM

Former Scott Lake assistant riding a hot streak


Timothy Hooper, 37, received his introduction to Thoroughbred racing about 10 years ago while working at Penn National for trainer Scott Lake, who in recent years is always near the top of the national standings for total wins. Hooper clearly learned his lessons well, going from rubbing horses, to becoming Lake's assistant for a period of about five to six years, and then moving out on his own.

Hooper currently has 20 horses in training at Pimlico and is off to a strong start in 2007 with a record of 9-4-2 from 34 starters (26 percent). A flat bet on his runners this year has produced a profit ($2.44 return on investment), as it did last year - $2.16 when he won at a 21-percent clip from 205 starters.

"I love that handicappers have made money betting my horses," Hooper said. "Anything that will bring attention to our operation is obviously positive. It's probably just a function of me being a smaller guy on the Maryland circuit and squaring off with bigger and more well-known outfits like Lake, [Dale] Capuano, and [Howard] Wolfendale - I think we fly a little under the radar."

Hooper is quick to give credit to Lake for much of his success.

"I obviously learned a lot from Scott," Hooper said. "At Penn National, we worked with a lot of cheap horses and really learned how to take care of a horse. I think a lot of the big barns don't deal with the problems we became familiar with. Scott is a stickler for feeding horses the right way and really being on top of a horse's legs and feet - that's a big issue.

"Additionally, our school of thought has always been to go easier on a horse in training. I think we go lighter than most - a lot of jogging as opposed to galloping. When questioned why we do things a little different, my response is usually, 'How can you question a guy like Scott Lake who wins 400 to 500 races a year?' "

Hooper's breakout year came in 2004 when he won 47 races from 235 starters (20 percent). He then suffered a dip in 2005 (56 for 374, 14 percent) in terms of winning races but his runners did earn more than $1.3 million in purses.

"I took on more horses about a year and a half ago when Mike Gill offered me a job at Oaklawn Park," Hooper said. "Gill ultimately phased out his operation for the most part and we had to try and rebuild from that point. At this time last year, we were down to about six horses.

"This year, we've been lucky and our horses have clicked in the right spots. This game goes in waves and right now we are going well. I'm hopeful we can continue to build upon our current success and attack the Delaware Park racing season."

Statistics suggest Hooper's horses bear particular watching when they are fresh, sharp, and in sprints.

Marquetrys Crown is a mare Hooper has done an excellent job with. He claimed her for $8,000 last July and she has won three of her last four starts, including an allowance.

Hooper's career highlights include minor stakes victories with Thermal Ablasion and a second-place finish with Clays Awesome in the Grade 3 Schaefer Handicap at Pimlico in 2005. He also won a $75,000 stakes race with Morine's Victory at Mountaineer Race Track last year.

"Clays Awesome was my nicest horse," Hooper said. "To run second in that race on the Preakness undercard was pretty exciting."