Updated on 09/15/2011 1:17PM

This trainer had to rein himself in before succeeding

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ELMONT, N.Y. - It has taken Pat Reynolds 30 years to become an overnight sensation.

After a nondescript training career marked by personal pratfalls and a modest amount of success, Reynolds is now enjoying the fruits of his labor and the benefits of having a "big horse."

On Tuesday, Reynolds had 15 horses in his care. This week, as he was preparing Peeping Tom for the biggest race of his life in Monday's Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park, Reynolds picked up 11 more from Jim Vena, proprietor of Southbelle Stable. The 26 horses are the most Reynolds has had at one time.

"Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it," said Reynolds, who acknowledged he had always wanted a large stable.

Earlier this month, Peeping Tom gave Reynolds his first Grade 1 victory when he took the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct. That victory came a month after Reynolds celebrated his 50th birthday, an occasion marked by a surprise party thrown by his wife of 23 years, Laura.

"It was a real surprise," Reynolds said. "I'm surprised I'm still here."

Reynolds, whose first job on the track was as a hotwalker for Elliott Burch in the early 1970's, says that only half-jokingly. In the 1980's, with his training career sputtering, Reynolds became addicted to drugs and alcohol. He was off the track for several years.

"I was one of those guys that went out to buy a bag of oats on a Friday night and came back eight years later," Reynolds said. "I had a problem with drinking and drugs. I had to go get help and put it behind me. I'd have to say I'm blessed. I haven't had any trouble recently staying clean. Hopefully, I just keep doing the things I have to do in that area. That's my No. 1 training job and everything else stems from that."

Reynolds appears to have his life in order now. He is even considering going back to St. John's University to earn the last three credits he needs for an associate degree.

"I maintain a decent lifestyle," Reynolds said. "I know I'll be able to train horses, but for a long time I couldn't train myself. People are not going to depend on you with expensive animals if you're hit or miss or you're in a bad state of mind."

Reynolds said he came back to the track in 1989 and worked as an assistant to trainers Billy Badgett, Murray Garren, and Gary Sciacca.

Later that year, he bought a horse out of a sale and resumed his training career. He hooked up with owners Pat Leuci and Arthur Yorkes the next year and they have had horses with Reynolds ever since. They ran second in Friday's opener with Joyful Sound, a 3-year-old Brief Ruckus filly making her first start.

Some of the better horses Reynolds in the 1990's were Eliza's Kiss, a hard-knocking claimer, Prioritizer, who finished second in 1992 Montauk Handicap, and Hugatag, who finished second at odds of 38-1 in the 1993 Grade 3 Gallant Fox Handicap.

Reynolds enjoyed his best season in 2000 when he saddled 25 winners from 139 starters. His horses earned $748,120, buoyed by Peeping Tom's second-place finish in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.

Reynolds claimed Peeping Tom for $40,000, and he has turned into one of the great success stories in recent years. Peeping Tom has won all four of his starts this year, including the Grade 2 General George Handicap, the Toboggan Handica, and the Carter. He will be the starting highweight in Monday's Met Mile.

"When I look at the black and white of Peeping Tom's past performances it sinks in," Reynolds said. "Sometime I feel like I'm on the outside looking in, but he's been that good. His race in the General George and subsequently the Toboggan and the Carter, they weren't flukes. . . . You hear about horses not showing up and he's been showing up on time."