by Evan Pattak
WASHINGTON, PA, May 15, 2023 — When Doug Snyder notched career win 6,500 on May 3, it triggered waves of tributes from the appreciative horsemen’s colony at Hollywood Casino at The Meadows, where Snyder has been a fixture for 50 years.
While win number 6,500 is impressive of itself, Snyder’s contributions to the sport and his fellow horsemen probably are equally responsible for the outpouring of affection.
What makes Snyder’s career so memorable? First, he’s a throwback — an owner, trainer and driver, one of the last of a breed that thrived in an era when things seemed less complicated.
In addition, he’s a shoeing expert, and he’s generously shared his shoeing advice with countless horsemen over those five decades. More than a few horses have gone on to glory thanks to the shoeing tips Snyder gave to the horses’ connections.
He also can tell you the names of virtually every horse he’s raced — or raced against. That talent may be less relevant, but given that Snyder has compiled about 40,000 driving and training starts, it’s not an inconsiderable feat.
Here’s a sampler of what they’re saying on The Meadows backside about “The Duke,” his milestone win and his career:
“He brought a new driving style to The Meadows — more aggressive. He was the first driver here to make quarter-pole moves and power moves. He’s a terrific horseman, a great driver and an even greater person. I always like driving for him because, as a trainer, he’s such a pro. He’s no different if you win or lose.”
—Hall of Fame driver Dave Palone
“He can train, he can drive, he can shoe. There aren’t many horsemen coming along who can do all three, so Doug may be the last of his kind. I learned by watching the operations of Doug’s father, trainer Dick Snyder, and we implemented a lot of that stuff in our stable. Doug was Dave Palone before there was Dave Palone, the first true catch driver at The Meadows. We go to lunch together once a week. I love picking his brain because there’s a lot I can learn there.”
—Hall of Fame trainer Ron Burke
“He was the dominant driver at The Meadows before Palone started his streak. He was the best The Meadows had. One of the things I’ll always remember about Doug is a photograph that shows him driving the trotter Call To Post. The horse has all four feet off the ground. It’s one of the greatest pictures I’ve seen.”
—Hall of Fame race caller Roger Huston
“Harness racing wasn’t all my brother ever did — he ran a car wash in high school — but, heck, when he was 10, he trained a horse in 2:05 in Montreal. He was already working with our dad when I joined them. We had about 10 horses at the time. We’d each get one ready. Doug and Dad would take the horses out; I’d do the stalls and have two more ready for them when they got back. Doug’s goal his whole life was to win 5,000 races. Once he did that in 2000, he semi-retired. You kind of have to beg him to get on a horse. I asked him if he’d drive one for me Wednesday and had to remind him: You couldn’t have done it without me.”
—Trainer Dane Snyder
“He’s sharp in the shoeing area — particularly with trotters. Doug and I are in the same barn, and I can tell you that he often helps others with shoeing. He has the interest of horsemen at heart. If you have a shoeing issue, there’s not a better guy to help you because he knows horses and has a heart of gold.”
—Driver Mike Wilder
“I had a horse named Uncut Jade who was a good stake horse for Team Spur early in his career but later suffered bowed tendons. I got him in the mid-1980s and wanted to race him at the Meadowlands. I asked Duke — I gave him that nickname, by the way — to drive, and he did. We won, and it turned out to be Duke’s only career victory at the Meadowlands. In the winners’ circle, we were presented a trophy by the singer Jerry Vale, who wasn’t Sinatra-like famous but was still pretty famous. As we were leaving the winners’ circle, Duke said to me, ‘Who’s that guy?’ I guess you could call it a dead heat. Doug Snyder had never heard of Jerry Vale, and Jerry Vale had never heard of Doug Snyder.”
—Trainer Mark Goldberg
“How do I remember the names of so many horses? I actually forget their names until I see them or get up behind them. Then it all comes right back to me. It’s funny how your mind works.”