08/31/2010 4:09PM

Tim Snyder unchanged by sudden fame

Barbara D. Livingston
Despite living in a Saratoga backstretch dorm room, Tim Snyder continues to turn down lucrative offers to buy Lisa's Booby Trap.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – A year ago at this time, few people outside of upstate New York had ever heard of Tim Snyder, a broke horseman with no horses who was commuting over 100 miles roundtrip to make roughly $50 a day.

This summer at Saratoga, Snyder’s got people offering him six-figures for a horse, buying him lobsters at Siro’s, and wanting to tell his life story in books, television, and movies.

“I’ve never been in this position before,” Snyder, 56, said Tuesday at the stakes barn at Saratoga. “I didn’t have two quarters to rub together last year – not that I got wads of money now – but it’s pretty exciting. It’ll pick your head up I’ll tell you that.”

Snyder is the owner and trainer of the undefeated 3-year-old filly Lisa’s Booby Trap, who seeks to go 5 for 5 when she makes her turf debut in Thursday’s $70,000 Riskaverse Stakes at Saratoga. Lisa’s Booby Trap has won her first four starts – all on dirt – by a combined 42 3/4 lengths, including the Loudonville Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 6. It was Snyder’s first stakes win.

“If she takes to the grass like I think she is, it’s going to be a hell of a lot easier on her,” Snyder said.

By now the story of Lisa’s Booby Trap is well-documented. Purchased by Snyder for $4,500 from the breeder, Lisa’s Booby Trap was named by Snyder for his wife Lisa, who died of ovarian cancer in 2003, and for a gentlemen’s club, the Booby Trap that he used to frequent in south Florida, near Calder.

Snyder has turned down offers of as much as $500,000 for the filly, who it has been suggested by some is the reincarnation of his wife, who once told Snyder that she would come back as a horse.

“I’ve been broke all my life, what’s a million dollars going to do for me now?” said Snyder, who is living in a dorm room above the stakes barn.

John Tebbut, a Finger Lakes trainer for whom Snyder galloped horses for years until this spring in Florida, was listed as the trainer for Lisa’s Booby Trap’s first two starts because Snyder couldn’t afford a license or insurance. Tebbut is also the one who fielded all those offers for Snyder, and said he was not surprised he turned them down.

“He didn’t want to have to deal with anybody else calling the shots,” Tebbutt said. “Just before the third race a guy called offering $500,000. When he was offered that half a million he started pacing, walking up and down the road sweating. Then he had a headache for three days after that.”

Last year, Snyder worked as an exercise rider for Tebbutt. Snyder, who has a home in Syracuse, said he would commute 116 miles roundtrip to get on five or six horses a day. Snyder said Tebbutt paid the best of all the Finger Lakes trainers, approximately $12 per horse.

“I was driving 1,000 miles a week, it cost me $25 a day between tolls and gas,” Snyder said.

Tebbutt said Snyder was a talented exercise rider, especially with bad horses.

“He really is a good horseman, he forgets more than most people know,” Tebbutt said. “That’s my only regret about him getting a good horse; it’s hard to find people that are that knowledgeable and who get along with horses that well.”

Snyder was born in the first-aid room of Scarborough Downs in Maine. He is the son of the jockey Warren Snyder, who rode on the New England circuit. Tim Snyder trained horses for about 11 years before his wife died in 2003. Though Snyder said he began training horses in 1988, Daily Racing Form and Equibase records have him starting his first horse in 1991.

During an 11-year period – through 2002 – Snyder won 81 races from 681 starters. They were mostly cheap races at Finger Lakes, the Great Barrington Fair, Fort Eire, Suffolk Downs, and Beulah Park.

In a move reminiscent of something trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. would do, Snyder once won three races in 10 days with the horse Step on Fire at the Great Barrington Fair in 1997.

When Snyder’s wife died, he left training. He knocked around in Southern California for several years galloping horses for different trainers.

All the time he was galloping, though, Snyder wanted to get back into training. He only had $2,000 to his name when he purchased Lisa’s Booby Trap. He told the breeder that he would pay him the remaining $2,500 with the money the horse would make from her first win. That’s one reason he ran her in a $20,000 maiden special weight race as opposed for a claiming price.

“If I had it my way I would have started her for $5,000, make her eligible for all those starter allowance races,” Snyder said.

When Snyder’s story hit the internet, it took off, Major newspapers wrote about it and this week a crew from NBC’s Dateline is scheduled to follow Snyder around for a few days for a potential one-hour special. Snyder has even reconnected with his daughter, Sierra, who will be here from Southern California for Thursday’s race. He has not seen his daughter in five years.

Snyder is a bit uncomfortable with all the attention, but he’s hoping that the success he has with Lisa’s Booby Trap could lead to his getting more horses of higher quality. He would love to have the stock to enable him to winter in south Florida and spend the rest of the time on the New York Racing Association circuit.

“If I could take the knowledge that I got working with the cheap ones and use it on the good ones I think I’d be in pretty good shape,” Snyder said. “I think the people I’d train for would be happy.”