01/18/2008 1:00AM

Jacobson finds little has changed

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - When David Jacobson decided to return to training horses after a 25-year hiatus, all his friends told him how much the game has changed. Eight months into his second incarnation as a claiming trainer, Jacobson sees the same game he left a quarter-century ago.

"It's very similar," said Jacobson, 53. "You claim them for one price and run them for another price and evaluate them when you get them. The horses, if they're trained good, taken care of, they're happy, and they want to go out and have fun and run; they're going to run good for you. That was then and that's now."

Since Aqueduct's inner-track meet began, it seems that Jacobson's horses are having a blast, because they're all running extremely well. Jacobson has 12 wins and 11 seconds from 51 starters. He has been among the most active trainers at the claim box.

Since racing moved to Aqueduct on Oct. 24, Jacobson has claimed 23 horses for $869,000 on behalf of his two owners, Michael Ricatto Jr. and Douglas Jacobson, David's brother. In that span, Jacobson has had 17 horses claimed from him for $320,500.

As has always been the case, some claims are good, others are not. Several of Jacobson's recent winners have been with horses that were running for a lower price tag than what he claimed them for. One example was Stonewood, who won a $14,000 claiming race Wednesday after being claimed for $25,000.

"I felt that was the spot where I had to run him to win," said Jacobson, who lost Stonewood through the claim box Wednesday. "Any higher than that, he probably would have finished second, and I don't want to finish second, I want to win."

Recent winners Judiths Garden and Final Story also were dropped down to win for Jacobson.

Conversely, Jacobson appears to have made two good claims in I Ain't No Saint, a 4-year-old son of Sweetnorthernsaint who was claimed for $60,000, and Laysh Laysh Laysh, a 3-year-old son of Whywhywhy, whom Jacobson haltered for $50,000.

Jacobson claimed I Ain't No Saint out of a third-place finish in a two-turn turf race at Saratoga in August. Jacobson has run him in three dirt sprints with a second, a third, and a second-level allowance win Thursday.

"I've been able to take a lot of horses from the turf - which it doesn't seem too many people are doing - and train them on the dirt and get them to like the dirt and run on the dirt," he said.

Jacobson claimed Laysh Laysh Laysh out of a third-place finish in a maiden race at Keeneland in October. Jacobson ran the horse twice in maiden special weight company, finishing second to the promising Saratoga Russell before winning a race on Jan. 5.

Jacobson is pointing Laysh Laysh Laysh to Monday's $75,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes.

Jacobson returned to training last summer after being away from the game for 25 years. Jacobson, the son of New York's onetime perennial leading trainer Buddy Jacobson, was forced to surrender his trainer's license to the New York State Racing and Wagering Board in 1982 after he was charged with failing to provide adequate food and medical attention for a horse in his care.

In the spring, Jacobson was granted an assistant trainer's license for a period while racing officials monitored his actions. Jacobson was granted a trainer's license just in time for the opening of Saratoga, where he won a race on opening day. That would be his only winner from his first 67 starters.

"In the beginning, it was tough," Jacobson said. "I wasn't doing very well, but since October I don't want to pinch myself, I don't want to wake up. Horses are trying and running so hard for me, I can't believe it - even my horses that don't win."

Jacobson said the only horses that aren't running well for him are the ones that he attempts to run back on short rest.

"That's the one thing that might have changed,'' Jacobson said. "Back then, you could run these horses every six days. Oscar [Barrera] used to run them every two or three days. Rick Dutrow does it once in a while, I see, but it doesn't seem to be the norm any more."

Starship Cruiser heads feature

The New York-bred Starship Cruiser, who suffered her first defeat when she tried open company last June, makes her first start since then when she tries open company again in Sunday's featured first-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles. All her previous wins came sprinting.

A 5-year-old daughter of Golden Missile, Starship Cruiser won all three of her starts against statebred company, beginning with an 11-length maiden win over the inner track last March. In her lone loss, she finished third to Featherbed at Belmont on June 27. Starship Cruiser is training steadily for her return for trainer Rick Dutrow Jr.

Street Bird, who won at this condition two starts back, is back at this level but is now in for the optional claiming price of $75,000.

* Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin won with just 4 of his first 36 starters at the inner-track meet. On Friday, McLaughlin won with 3 of his 4 starters. McLaughlin swept the early daily double with Labadeel ($8.40) and Cadet Blue ($5.10). After Littletown Bridge finished fourth in the eighth, McLaughlin won the nightcap with Hatta Diamond ($6).