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He's always smiling and has a friendly word for everyone.

When Larry Snyder is not working as a racing steward, he's with his wife Jeanette and both are smiling and have time for a chat with anyone.

The Snyders are sincerely nice people. He always seems to have pep in his step, and there was plenty to be happy about for anyone who is associated with Oaklawn Park on Monday.

That was when a Bob Baffert shipper from Santa Anita won the Smarty Jones under a hand-ride, and Oaklawn now has another serious threat in its series of prep races for the Kentucky Derby.

Tuesday was a different matter. The Snyders returned from a scheduled doctor's appointment to find their lives in upheaval under a shadow of gray smoke.

Their Mountain Pine home was burned to the ground.

Any time people lose their home it is tragic, but this home was more than a place to have family over for the holidays or to have a nice dinner for just the two of them, something they've enjoyed for their entire marriage.

For the Snyders, it was shocking because those flames devoured all the memorabilia from an incredible 34-year career as a jockey whose 6,388 wins rank him 14th all-time.

He was Oaklawn Park's winningest jockey eight times, and won six riding titles at Louisiana Downs and two at Arlington Park.

He was the leading jockey in America in 1989 and won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, given to the jockey who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct on and off the track.

Snyder was voted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Fair Grounds Racing Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2001, he was honored on the Arkansas Walk of Fame in Hot Springs. In 2006, he was nominated for the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.

No one can accomplish all those things and not collect a ton of trophies, pictures and other personal treasures that must seem irreplaceable. A lifetime of awards gone in the time it took to visit the doctor, and the only good news was the dogs made it. The cats didn't.

The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame immediately ordered him a replacement trophy. As soon as word reached Oaklawn Park, the Snyders were offered a home to live in, but their son -- a veterinarian in Shreveport -- already had taken care of that.

They are a couple who make everyone's life a little better, and everyone who knows them wants to help.

For years they vacationed in Florida with retired jockey John Lively and his wife. They would load up their motorcycles and off they went.

Riding a motorcycle is nothing compared with getting on top of a horse that weighs more than 1,000 pounds and has a mind of his own, but with courage and expertise jockeys drive that horse home.

Snyder broke into racing in 1960 at the age of 18, and he soon became a regular at Oaklawn. During his prime, his skills were in demand all over the country, but it didn't take long for him to prefer to be close to his adopted home of Hot Springs. A native of Toledo, Ohio, Larry and Jeanette fell in love with Hot Springs their first season there and it became home.

In a race, if a jockey gave Snyder an inch he was going to take a mile and beat him to the winner's circle.

He loved to stalk -- dropping behind the pace-setter -- and in the stretch blow by him on the rail. He was so good at it that he was nicknamed "Sneak" by the jockeys, many of whom he shared riding tips with over the years.

This week, the Snyders suffered a major material loss, but their spirits are strong.

Sports on 01/18/2018

Print Headline: Oaklawn legend to rise above material losses

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