Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tim and Lisa, up close and endearingly personal

I don't know what Tim Snyder was like before Lisa's Booby Trap. But I know first-hand a little bit about the man he is right now, and if he's changed (which the Daily Racing Form says he hasn't), I'd be hard-pressed to believe it.

My first trip to Saratoga Race Course as a credentialed blogger was simply brilliant, except for my luck at the betting windows (though I did hit a trifecta and a pricey exacta on Sunday). But by far the highlight of the weekend didn't require credentials at all; only fate.

In Saratoga, I crossed paths with a Twitter friend, Constance Matia. (And regret not catching up with others, including Teresa Genaro of Brooklyn Backstretch and Mike Jarboe from the Albany Times Union.)

Following a splendid day at the track -- and a heart-stopping renewal of the Travers Stakes, won by Afleet Express by the narrowest of margins over Fly Down -- Connie and I decided to make our way to Siro's, the primo post-race hangout and eatery in Saratoga Springs, just outside the racetrack's fence at 168 Lincoln Ave. We didn't have dinner reservations, and weren't planning on spending a lot of time or money, but a band was on-stage out back, there was no cover for the party, and the place couldn't have been more packed. It looked like a good time, and it was.

After a few hours, around 11 p.m., we decided it was time to go. As I waited for Connie by the back gate of Siro's, a diminutive man walked toward me, carrying a pair of foam takeout-dinner containers.

It was Tim Snyder.

I contemplated whether to just let the man walk with his late-night meal or leftovers. I sorely wanted to meet him and his horse, but maybe this wasn't the time. Yet, as he neared, I couldn't resist.

"You're Tim Snyder!" I said, unable to resist the fan-boy greeting. "I can't believe this."

The hard-luck horseman who has suddenly made good looked me over through squinted eyes.

"How do you know my name's Snyder?"

"Dude, I've seen you on TV," I replied. "You own Lisa's Booby Trap, and she's awesome."

Snyder's demeanor softened.

"You think I've got a great horse?" he asked. I answered affirmatively and enthusiastically.

"Good," Snyder said. "Then would you mind goin' over there with me and tellin' that to this chick at the bar? She don't believe me when I say I got a great horse."

Favor eagerly granted.

Without time to wait for, nor means to alert, Connie, I followed Snyder back to the vicinity of Siro's raw bar, where a young female employee noticed the trainer returning.

"Here," Snyder said, pointing in my direction, "listen to this fella."

Grinning, I told a smirking Siro's girl, "This man owns a great horse. She's big, she's beautiful, and she's really frickin' fast."

In hopes of reinforcing the validity of my opinion, I handed the girl one of my business cards; "Golden Gale Stables: Breeding, Racing, Pedigree, Bloodstock Advising."

The interaction was sufficient to correct the young lady's opinion of Snyder and his horse, and Tim was satisfied.

"C'mon," he said, "lemme buy ya a drink."

We collected Connie on our way and bellied -- well, I bellied, Snyder "chested" -- up to the bar. After some jovial, colorful discussion, the horseman casually asked, "So, you wanna go and meet her?"

Did we? Did we!

Siro's is just two doors down from the Saratoga stakes barn, a white building as pretty as a house, where Lisa's Booby Trap resides in a stall and Snyder stays in a dorm room upstairs. As we entered the small paddock surrounded by stalls, Snyder stopped at the watchman's door and dropped off the takeout boxes -- a pair of lobsters, we learn.

"Lobster can wait, or he can eat 'em both," Snyder said, gesturing toward the guard. We walked inside.

There, Snyder opened the gate and let Connie spend a great length of time in the stall with his horse. I'd wanted to walk to my vehicle for my camera bag, but Connie didn't want to delay Snyder nor her date with Lisa. So, regrettably, what became a 90-minute stay at the barn is captured in memories, not photographs.

Snyder did run up to his room and lug back a stack of envelopes, stuffed with pictures of his life before and after Lisa's Booby Trap. His father was a jockey; his mother gave birth to Tim in the first aid room at Scarborough Downs.

But mostly the stop at the stakes barn was a Lisa's Booby Trap lovefest. The filly is remarkable, nuzzling those who enter her stall like she was just some little girl's 4-H pony, and occasionally walking over to the guy outside the enclosure (figuring it was full enough inside) to stick her big, beautiful head with its blind left eye over the gate to be patted. Her relaxed, pleasant demeanor belies the fierce competitor she becomes on a racetrack. And it isn't her only curious feature or trait.

The story of the filly who is half-blind, with one flat front foot and a club-foot on the other side, has been well-documented. But Snyder wanted us to see just how oddly Lisa is built, at least by the conformational standards of a great racehorse. Connie and I knelt outside the stall at Snyder's request, to get a good, low angle at each of Lisa's front feet as he lifted them, and to see how her shoulders aren't proportioned the same; one is more densely muscled. A huge, white spot in Lisa's left eye is evidence of her blindness.

Snyder said the horse also has a ravenous appetite, eating at volumes far beyond any horse he's ever trained or fed.

But whatever Tim Snyder is doing, he's doing it just right. Even in the dim light of the stall's bulb, the filly's coat glistened, her muscles rippled. Lisa's Booby Trap might have been scratched from the Coaching Club American Oaks, but taken-in on the whole, she has the look and exudes the confidence of a Grade 1 horse.

"Aw, she ain't even had a bath today," Snyder said, brushing aside a compliment.

When Connie asked if Lisa was likely to kick, Snyder replied with a demonstration.

"I'll show ya how she kicks," he said.

Grabbing the filly's tail in both hands, Snyder lifted his left foot high and playfully booted her in the butt. Lisa nickered and trotted circles in the stall, Snyder maintaining his grip on her tail and following behind, periodically raising his foot to kick at her again. When the little game ended and he dropped the horse's tail, Lisa's Booby Trap turned to nuzzle her owner, resting her gorgeous head upon his shoulder.

It was obvious why Tim Snyder hasn't sold, and will likely never sell, this animal, even at a reported offer of $500,000.

They're as in love as human and horse can be.

Lisa's Booby Trap is entered for today, the 5/2 favorite in the Riskaverse Stakes at the Spa, which will be her first effort on the turf. Her sire, Drewman, was 2-for-2 on the lawn, but that doesn't matter much to Snyder. Whatever her pedigree suggests -- short or long, dirt or grass -- he's convinced the 4-for-4 filly quite simply can do anything.

I'm hoping more than ever to see her prove him right.


  1. What a great story, Glenn! You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who could root against Tim Snyder and Lisa's Booby Trap.

    Too bad about the camera though.

  2. Great story, Glenn, and how wonderful for you and Connie!!

    When I first saw Lisa's Booby Trap on paper (for the CCA Oaks), I concluded the horse was either going to destroy Blind Luck et al., or finish last. And I had no idea which. Then when she showed up in the easier spot a week or two later, it was clear I should bet her to win. But then the race happened, and I got my first look at her with my own eyes. Wow. Visually AWESOME. And Desormeaux is clearly in love with this horse. I've never seen a jockey that affectionate with a horse ON the track.

    Tim and Lisa Snyder's stories make the filly into a legendary racing story (one that will later appear in those Bloodhorse 100 Greatest Whatever books). I can't wait to see her race today and the rest of her career ... and cheer LOUDLY for her :)

    David H.

  3. Glenn, that is officially the COOLEST story I've heard in awhile! I'm green with envy! :-)

  4. Love the "behind-the-scene" look into this already great story. Thanks for sharing it! I will be rooting for Tim and Lisa!

  5. As the friend of Glenn who was the fortunate one to find myself on Traver's Eve with my arms around Lisa's Booby Trap, I wanted to add my impression of her and Tim Snyder.

    Lisa has a lot of heart. I'm a horse whisperer by nature, and Lisa responded to my gentle touch/voice with such emotion. At one point, Lisa and I were literally lips to lips. She isn't even nervous when you get on her blind side, she senses you there and knows your intentions.

    I was amazed at her sweetness, given how fierce she is on the track. She did find my designer skirt interesting, however, and at one point decided she wanted to chew it a bit. I just laughed and laughed, and gently took it back with no harm done. Even if she had torn it, I would not have minded. I am quite used to horses trying to chew my clothing. :)

    Tim is a backstretch guy, unassuming, straight-forward, and uses colourful language. He had pictures of Lisa and asked me if I wanted one. Of course I did! I then asked him to pick out his fav pic of her for me. When he selected a lovely picture, he personally autographed it for me, no extra charge. ;)

    There is no mistaking Lisa and Tim were meant for one another, and I am thrilled I had the opportunity to spend a golden hour or so with them in the midnight hour.

  6. Great writing Glenn, really quality work. Thanks.

  7. What a brilliant opportunity you seized...and a beautiful story to boot!

    Hope to see you at Siro's next summer!

  8. Love this Glenn. I was at Siro's that night, but left around 8 pm missing my chance of possibly meeting you, Mr. Snyder and Lisa's Booby Trap. My Loss-but I do have your great words to remind me why this game is so great.

  9. Great story about Tim and Lisa! Thanks. Maybe I'll run into you next season at Colonial Downs! Your Twitter friend Teresa Genaro is a friend of mine, too.

  10. What a great story. This is what makes racing so different than any other sport. And what makes it so incredible.

  11. Beautifully written,thanks for sharing that! She's going to end up with a huge fan club,such a heartwarming story.


I welcome comments, including criticism and debate. But jerks and the vulgar will not be tolerated.