There are at least two things that 2022 Flo-Cal Faceoff winner David Snyder is clearly very good at. One is his job. He is the Chief Information Officer for a major West Coast-based restaurant chain.
The other is playing contests. In 2019, he earned $100,000 as the NHC Tour champion. Before that, there were big tournament victories at The Orleans ($57,000), the Gold Coast ($43,000) and in Reno ($22,000).
Part of Snyder’s success stems from the fact that his avocation ties in neatly with his occupation. The 66-year-old Mission Viejo, Calif., resident has some serious software developing chops to go with his IT skills, and he created the Power Picks product available daily on Trackmaster.
“That’s what I use exclusively,” Snyder said. “With a full-time job—or really a more-than-full-time job—I think this gives me an edge. I don’t have to work as hard. The program spits out a sheet with the relevant info for every race. I look at every race about 20 minutes before it starts, look for the value, make my play, then watch the race.”
In the Flo-Cal Faceoff, Snyder’s methodical approach yielded his biggest victory ever—$180,000 for winning, plus another $3,750 for putting together the third-best score on the final day of the two-day competition.
To simply assign all the credit for the triumph to his computer program or his analytical style, however, would do an injustice to the many years of experience that have allowed Snyder to cope with the emotional peaks and valleys that are an inextricable part of big-money contest play.
Midway through Day 1, Snyder found himself in an enviable position. Thanks to an 11-1 tally in the 4th at Gulfstream with Embrace My Uncle, a couple of later winners at modest odds and then a $6.60 place collection in the 9th at Gulfstream, Snyder was in third place amongst the 376 entry-field.
Then came the kind of drought with which all contest players are far too familiar. He blanked on his final nine Saturday plays, and opened up Sunday in similar fashion, whiffing on his first four selections. By this point, Snyder wasn’t even on the first page of the standings anymore.
It was a slump that can throw even a seasoned player off his or her game and send one reaching for implausible longshots, That’s not Snyder’s style, though.
“You have to govern yourself. On Saturday, only one longshot came in,” he said, referring to #12 Moms Moon who was a 42-1 winner of the 11th at Gulfstream, “and still, no one was gone. It wasn’t like that year at the NHC when Jose Arias was so far out in front. I just never worried about the 13 in a row. I never went on tilt. I was just still trying to collect points.
“Many tournament players might say, ‘If I don’t have the 12 horse, I can’t win the tournament.’ But if you can park that negativity and find another horse that pays big, it can be a different story. Sometimes you have to ask yourself, ‘Is it hopeless or not?’ Most of the time, it’s not hopeless, and if you can regroup, you might be able to do what you need to do at the end.”
Snyder engineered that regrouping process by coming up with three winners and four runners up over his next 12 plays. There were no blockbusters among those seven collections. His biggest return of the bunch was the last of the seven—Del Mar Drama ($14.80, $5.60) in the 6th at Santa Anita. Suddenly, Snyder had clawed his way back to 10th place.
The problem was…there were now only three races left. Snyder, though, was nonplussed.
“At this point, you realize you’ve accumulated enough points and realize you’re only about $40 behind,” he said. “Everyone is playing the same race, and the only way you’re going to get ahead at this point is to hit something. I looked at my sheet for the race and the 8 horse [Half Past Twelve] had gone long on the turf, was shortening up, was getting first-time Lasix and was 15-1 in the morning line. To me, it was a no brainer. I also knew that a lot of other people would be playing the 8 and I didn’t want them to swallow me up if that horse won.”
That horse won…and Snyder soon realized something wonderful.
“Not only did no one leapfrog me,” he told himself, “I leapfrogged the leader!”
Turnabout is fair play, though, and in the next-to-last race of the Flo-Cal Faceoff, Snyder found himself getting leapfrogged by Thomas Kolschowski, who moved from 4th to 1st by coming up with Wishtheyallcouldbe ($15.60, $5.40) in the 8th at Santa Anita.
“That horse was not on my radar,” Snyder admitted.
There was now one race left, and Snyder, trailing by $5.60, was faced with a dilemma. Go for the gusto? Or play it safer?
“You’re supposed to be playing to win,” Snyder said, “but two people behind me were within two dollars of me. Sure, I wanted to win, but I was okay with $72,000 for second place. Third place dropped down to $36,000 and fourth was $27,000. The number 2 horse [Constitutionaffair] was ridden by Prat, trained by Glatt, had been running in better allowance races, had good speed and was at the top of my sheet. I knew I’d be really unhappy with myself if I lost $50,000 by not having this horse. I told myself, ‘You have to take the top pick, David.’”
When the gates opened and Snyder refreshed his HorseTourneys screen, he saw that he was the only player near the top using Constitutionaffair, the 6-5 choice.
“I was good with that,” Snyder said.
If Snyder’s reaction at that point seems a little muted, it’s because he was so focused on protecting second that he hadn’t yet processed the fact that Kolschowsky was on a different horse.
“Wait a minute,” Snyder said to himself after Constitutionaffair crossed the wire first and Kolschowsky’s horse had run fourth. “I’m only six dollars out of first, and I think I’m going to get seven dollars here. I may win this!”
As soon as the thought crossed his mind, Snyder got a call from his close friend Thomas Blosser who—ironically—was the first Flo-Cal Faceoff winner back in 2020. Blosser was thinking the same thing Snyder was thinking, and just a few seconds later, the two refreshed their screens and saw that Snyder had prevailed by 80 cents.
“It was just shocking to have pulled something like this off after all these years of playing contests,” Snyder said with an unmistakable air of satisfaction.
A widower of 12 years whose kids are adults and out of the house, Snyder make his first post-victory call to his father, a Vietnam veteran who had occasionally taken him to the track (at Fort Erie) prior to moving the family from the Buffalo area to California when David was still young.
“He’s a football fan, and he was busy watching the end of the 49ers-Cowboys game,” David laughed. “But when I told him WHY I was calling, he was very happy.”
In the aftermath of his biggest victory ever, David Snyder took time to reflect on a couple of the little things that went in his favor en route to the Flo-Cal championship.
“I bought two entries—one on Friday and one about a half-hour before the contest started on Saturday when I saw how big the purse had gotten. The second entry was the one that won. The other came in about 350th…which is what you want to see…everything good aligned on one ticket!”
There was also some irony in his victory.
“In that last race, if I had been playing to win, I probably don’t play that 2 horse because if he drops to 4-5, I lose. But when four people are separated by six dollars, it’s a different problem.”
Thanks to a strong computer program, excellent game strategy and a bit of fortuity, David Snyder emerged victorious in the 2022 Flo-Cal Faceoff.
And when things were looking rather bleak, he managed to govern himself masterfully.