10/17/2002 12:00AM

C'mon, get happy with state money

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He played heartthrob Keith Partridge on the early 1970's television show "The Partridge Family" and is now a successful recording artist with a busy concert schedule, but entertaining isn't the only thing David Cassidy is passionate about.

Cassidy is a breeder and owner, and one of his horses, Lady D'Jour, will run in Saturday's $150,000 Ticonderoga Handicap, one of seven New York-bred stakes at Belmont Park on New York Showcase Day. Lady D'Jour, a horse Cassidy bought for $8,000, has earned more than $100,000.

Cassidy, 52, first became active in racing while living in California, and in 1973 purchased a mare out of a California Thoroughbred Breeders Association sale. The following year, while in New York performing at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, he bought his first yearling at Fasig-Tipton's select sale.

Today, Cassidy owns 11 mares and has seven horses in training in New York with Gary Contessa.

Cassidy is a big believer in the New York Breeding and Racing Program and appears in a commercial promoting the program.

"Like anything else you do, you want do it on the big stage in New York," Cassidy said. "New York has a very good program, and financially as a breeder and owner, it makes sense to be a part of it. It is the most improved breeding program in the country."

He boards his mares at Dr. Jerry Bilinski's Waldorf Farm in North Chatham, N.Y. Bilinski is the co-breeder of Unswept, a son of End Sweep Cassidy bought for $117,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton preferred sale of yearlings in Saratoga. The New York-bred Unswept impressively won his debut at Saratoga.

Cassidy's New York-bred winners this year also include Snoopy Blues and Sultress of Swing.

When he was growing up, Cassidy had no direct ties racing. But as a young boy in Manhattan he became fascinated with the sport, which he watched on the television with his grandfather.

"I remember staying home with the mumps and seeing this racing movie, 'The Homestretch,' with Maureen O'Hara," Cassidy recalled. "I loved the racing scenes and begged my mom and grandparents to take me to the races. By the time I was 7, I was riding ponies and became an avid horseback rider. I got my first riding horse when I was 14."

Cassidy, in partnership, owned and raced In Neon, the Broodmare of the Year in 1998 and the dam of Grade 1 winners Sharp Cat and Royal Anthem. Cassidy and his partners sold In Neon, a daughter of Ack Ack, to John Franks while she was in foal with Sharp Cat. Franks is listed as the breeder of Sharp Cat, a daughter of Storm Cat, who won more than $1.9 million on the racetrack.

Cassidy, who loves poring over pedigrees, said he plans on cutting back on the number of mares he owns so he can concentrate more on racing. Several of his mares will be sold this fall and during the winter at breeding stock auctions, including the Keeneland November sale.

"I plan to keep some of my young mares who have outstanding foals," he said. "I also want to buy a couple young horses every year, which makes sense if your interest is racing. I just want to have my dream of breeding, racing, and owning a horse that has a really good shot at being the best of their generation."

Cassidy recently moved from Las Vegas to south Florida with his wife, songwriter Sue Shifrin-Cassidy, and their 11-year-old son, Beau. Cassidy said Beau spent the Saratoga meet working at Contessa's barn, and that his son is as enamored with racing as he is.

"He really understands the game," Cassidy said. "It used to be that he would be disappointed when we lost; now he'll be consoling me and saying, 'Dad, that was a great race, especially since the horse had trouble.' "

Currently on tour, Cassidy will not be at Belmont Park on New York Showcase Day because he has a concert that evening at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

Luckily for Cassidy, he has been able to combine his career and love for racing into some fun trips this year. During the summer, Cassidy was touring in Europe and was able to catch the Irish Derby at The Curragh. Next month while he is on tour in Australia, he is scheduled to perform at the track on Melbourne Cup Day.

Cassidy said there are parallels between the entertainment business and racing.

"There are no guarantees about anything and that at any moment anything can happen," he said. "You can be sitting on top of the world one day and the next day you are sweeping it. But that's part of the thrill, and I'm a thrill-seeker."