08/26/2011 3:09PM

Saratoga: Jacobson pulls off rare feat with jumper Mabou in New York Turf Writers

Barbara D. Livingston
Three weeks after he was claimed for $30,000, Mabou wins the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – That David Jacobson reached in and claimed Mabou for $30,000 out of a steeplechase race here at Saratoga earlier this summer was noteworthy in itself. According to Bill Gallo, director of racing for the National Steeplechase Association, it was only the third claim in a steeplechase race at Saratoga in the last 34 years and the first here since 2004.

That Jacobson wheeled his new acquisition back in three weeks to win the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Steeplechase Handicap on Thursday was nothing short of amazing.

Jacobson, 56, who maintains a large claiming stable of nearly 35 horses, had never started a horse in a steeplechase race nor had he won a graded stakes of any kind. He said he claimed Mabou because he had won a $20,000 claiming race over the jumps by an astonishing 82 lengths in his 2011 debut and that he also felt the 8-year-old Dynaformer gelding had some value if he decided to return him to the flats later this season.

“I enjoy watching steeplechase races, I saw this horse had won a race by 82 lengths and it looked like an opportunity to get a really nice horse for a fair price,” said Jacobson, when asked to explain his reasoning for adding a steeplechase runner to his stable.

Jacobson said that although he had never actually started a steeplechase runner before Friday, he had some experience being around jumpers when with his father, the late Howard “Buddy” Jacobson, as a boy.

“My father claimed a lot of jumpers back in the 60’s,” said Jacobson. “In fact, he had one of the best steeplechase horses of that era, Lake Delaware, although I’m not sure if he ever won a Grade 1 stakes.”

Jacobson said he’s not exactly sure how most steeplechase trainers condition their horses for a jump race. He just went ahead and put Mabou on his own program and trained him more like a horse who was going to run 1 1/8 miles on the flat than one going twice that distance over jumps.

“I hear most of those steeplechase guys take their horses out two or three times a day, although I’m not sure if that was the case with this particular horse,” said Jacobson. “I just put him on a similar program as my other horses. I galloped him once around the main track here each morning and never took him over to Oklahoma to train over the hurdles since I got him. I figured it’s like riding a bicycle. Once those horses learn how to jump, they never forget. The only real problem I had was getting him to eat. He barely ate a thing for the first week. But we experimented with some different combinations and now he doesn’t leave a drop. He came out of the race great and ate up everything last night.”

The most important change Jacobson made with Mabou, however, was in his running style. After racing on or near the lead in all his previous jump races, Mabou rated back at the rear of the pack for the opening two miles of the 2 3/8-mile Turf Writers before unleashing a powerful run down the outside of the course that carried him past the Irish invader Dirar over the final fence en route to an emphatic 5 3/4-length victory.

“I just wanted to change things around with him and obviously it worked,” said Jacobson ,who has won five races at the meet. “You’ll never see him on the lead again.”

Jacobson will now point Mabou for the next important race on the steeplechase calendar, the 2 5/8-mile two Grand National at Far Hills on Oct. 22.

“I’ll need a race for him between now and then so I might ask P.J. to put something up on the grass for him next month at Belmont,” said Jacobson referring to New York Racing Association director of racing P .J. Campo. “Maybe at a mile and one half, which will be like a sprint for this horse.”