03/10/2008 12:00AM

After 25-year absence, he regains Midas touch


David Jacobson's background doesn't read like that of most horsemen on the Aqueduct leader board. Jacobson, now 53, was out of racing for about 25 years prior to his return in 2007 and has won with 20 of his first 83 starters this year. He is the son of Buddy Jacobson, a five-time leading trainer in New York, and nephew of former trainers Eugene, Sidney, and Hirsch Jacobs, the last of whom is a member of racing's Hall of Fame.

David Jacobson, currently tied for third in the Aqueduct trainer standings with Kiaran McLaughlin behind only Gary Contessa and Bruce Levine, has 33 horses stabled at Aqueduct and learned the training trade from his family and Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel.

"I came up through my family and my father, really," Jacobson said. "It's been a family business since basically the 1930s. I trained in the 70s and 80s, and worked for Frankel. He had learned from my dad, so there was a lot of knowledge to gain there."

Jacobson lost his trainer's license in 1982 as the result of an incident in which a horse under his care died from laminitis. The ordeal made him sour and he spent many years away from the racing game until he applied for reinstatement last year, received an assistant trainer's license, and ultimately a trainer's license.

"Michael Ricatto, who is 92 years old and was one of my owners 25 years ago, gave me the push to come back," Jacobson said. "The one thing that gets him going is talking about horses and he felt we needed to take one more win picture together - it's turned into a lot."

Since his return, Jacobson's numbers in terms of quantity and quality seem to be improving and his $2.32 return on investment this year has made him a favorite of Aqueduct bettors.

"It took me a little time to figure things out, and I'm surprised I've made it back as quickly as I have but I still have a long way to go," Jacobson said. "I'm very satisfied with my progress and the way my horses have performed - even the ones that aren't winning are running strong. I'm more impressed this year that my horses have been one-two-three 50-percent of the time than I am with my 25-percent win percentage. In the end, that is all you can ask for because many times racing luck and other things make the difference at the wire."

Jacobson has showcased his abilities with the claims of Laysh Laysh Laysh, a $50,000 acquisition who has 2 wins, a second, and a stakes placing in 4 starts since being claimed; I Ain't No Saint, a winner who has never been off the board in four starts since being claimed; and Wundelia, a recent winner off the claim.

"I like to keep an open mind when claiming," Jacobson said when asked about his strategy at the claim box. "A lot of it has to do with conditions because it is one thing to have a horse that can run and it is another thing to have a place to run him. Right now, at this time of year, I just seem to have the right horses and we'll have to adjust as we go.

"Laysh Laysh Laysh is at the top of our list of nice ones right now, and I Ain't No Saint is another, but the good ones stand out. Anyone can train a nice horse. I've been particularly pleased with some of our other claims, also - a horse like Gold and Blue Box, for example, who hasn't won for us but just ran second in an allowance and has competed well in his races since we took him from a race where he got beat 33 lengths."

Jacobson couldn't put his finger on something he might do better than the guy in the barn next door, and his statistical sampling is still relatively small at this time, but he suggests bettors can continue to get behind his stock. Bill Place, Casse, and Dont Knock America were all recently claimed by Jacobson and bear watching.

"Every horse is different, but with my horses I'm going to put them in a race where they can win," he said. "And, right now, we're right 25 percent of the time so something is working. I'd like to improve upon that, and you want to get better stock and keep your horses competing.

"The beauty is horses will always teach you something. My uncle Hirsch was learning about horses up until the time he died, and that's what makes this game great."