David Jacobson: A Rolling Trainer is Gathering Moss

Saginaw was one of David Jacobson's best runners until he broke down after taking a bad step. (Photo credit: Drawing Away Stable)

David Jacobson, the leading trainer in New York is getting crucified by an outspoken group on Facebook and Twitter recently, led by well-known owner Maggi Moss.

Jacobson, who is currently the leading trainer at the Aqueduct meeting and set an all-time record for wins by a trainer on the New York circuit in 2013 with 188, recently had one of his former horses show up in a kill pen and has had a couple of recent breakdowns.

The gelding Toque was claimed by Jacobson for $25,000 last March, came back two months later to run fifth against $5,000 claimers at Monmouth Park, and then did not finish when entered for a $4,000 tag at Suffolk Downs on June 19.

The gelding was discovered at New Holland and was rescued for $500 but later died. The gelding won 10 of his 30 career starts and earned $176,996 in his career. He won races at Belmont Park, Gulfstream Park, Finger Lakes and Saratoga.

He deserved a better fate.

    The New York Racing Association cleared Jacobson of any wrongdoing in the incident. The NYRA has a rule that if an owner or trainer is found knowingly selling a horse for slaughter they can have their stalls permanently revoked.

Sounds like a good rule, but a hollow one. Where does the NYRA think these horses are ending up after their careers on the track are over?

Much of the criticism that Jacobson is receiving on social media involves how quickly he brings runners back. The colt El Oh El raced four times in just 19 days, most recently winning a $20,000 claiming race on Jan. 10.  

Pass the Tap was making his fourth start in 45 days when he ran second against first level allowance foes. The colt was vanned off after the race.

Jacobson is the son of legendary trainer Buddy Jacobson, who was one of the top trainers in New York in the ‘60’s. Buddy was convicted of murder in 1980 and died in prison in 1989 at age 58.

David was sent to California where he was an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel and then came back to New York to work for his father and then went out on his own.

David Jacobson won a record 188 races in New York in 2013

Jacobson lost is license after he was charged with “failing to provide adequate food and medical attention” to the horse Hugable Tom, who was euthanized on Sept. 28, 1981. He spent the next 25 years in the real estate business and returned to the track in 2007.

From 2007 through 2013 he won 636 races. His last suspension for a drug positive occurred in 2009 when the Maryland Racing Commission suspended him 15 days:

On September 25, 2009, the Stewards received notice from the State Chemist that blood sample #Tl7817, dated September 23, 2009, contained phenylbutazone at a level found to exceed 13.5 micrograms per milliliter of blood plasma. The Stewards, having established that sample #T17817 had been taken from the horse Midwatch, trained by David Jacobson, following the running of the first race at Laurel Park on September 23, 2009.


With so much criticism of Jacobson on both Twitter and Facebook, some of it justified and some of it uninformed with little or no truth, I thought I would look at Jacobson strictly by the numbers.

Dating back five years Jacobson has started 2427 horses, and 30 of them did not finish according to race charts. Of the 30, 15 never raced again. Four horses broke down.

Jacobson horses that did not finish in last five years (30)

(Name of horse, track, date, chart comment)

Unigold Penn 2/21/09 Broke down

Military Major Aqu 3/7/09 Broke down

Fighting Speedy Aqu 4/16/09 Steadied break, pulled up

Yes He’s the Man Aqu 11/21/09 In distress, pulled up

Mr. Bourbon Aqu 12/4/09 Stumbled lost rider (raced again)

Super Child Aqu 2/25/09 Fractious, reared at start (raced again)

Check It Twice Bel 5/6/10 Pulled up, vanned off

The Truffle Man Mth 7/4/10 Steady eased, walked off (raced again)

January Gent Mth 7/23/10 Eased walked off (raced again)

Posner Girl Tdn 9/25/10 Broke down 3/8 pole

Talented Princess Aqu 3/10/11 Injured break, lost rider (raced again)

Bon Marie Bel 7/7/11 Pulled up, vanned off

Kissa Melissa Sar 8/15/11 eased walked off; Bel 10/27/11 Always outrun, eased

My Man Nell Sar 8/17/11 Clipped heels lost jock, (raced again)

Mabou FH 10/22/11 Pulled up (steeplechase race, raced again)

D J’s Revenge Aqu 11/23/11 3 wide bid, broke down

Anew Prx 2/6/12 Stumbled lost rider (raced again)

Adios Nardo Aqu 4/12/12 Bad stumble lost rider (raced again)

Charlestonian Aqu 4/14/12 Rail trip, faded, eased (raced again)

Archaelogist Bel 5/23/12 Outrun, trailed (raced again)

She’s Gosphel Bel 9/22/12 Spill, taken up, eased (raced again)

Superstructure Aqu 1/21/13 Broke in start, eased (raced again)

Rubysandpearls Bel 6/12/13 Ask break, eased at 3/8 (raced again)

Toque Suf 6/19/13 Pulled up

Saginaw Sar 8/30/13 Bad step, pulled up, van’d

Poliziano Bel 10/20/13 Clipped lost rider 3/8 (raced again)

Under Review 12/28/13 Outrun, eased

Uncle Smokey Aqu 1/2/14 Broke down euthanized

Derek’s Girl Aqu 1/4/14 Chased 2p, eased


Here are some details of some of the Jacobson runners via Greg Jones (click on link in tweet):



David Jacobson

2427 starts

30 DNF (1.23%)

18 others beaten 40+ lengths

24% first off the claim

18% first after claimed from

Back in1-7 days 25% 47 winners from 187 starters. Only 1 DNF and 2 others beaten 40+ lengths


Despite getting a lot of heat for running horses back on short rests, Jacobson’s numbers look good on paper, with just one DNF from 187 starters. However, those numbers do not include a horse like Pass the Tap, who finished but apparently is not even close to 100% sound.

I thought I would look at several other trainers that are based in New York that are active at the claim box, Gary Contessa and Rudy Rodriguez, as well as Todd Pletcher, who does not claim as often and has generally much higher class stock.

Here are their numbers:


Gary Contessa

3423 starts

30 DNF (0.87%)

33 others beaten 40+ lengths


Rudy Rodriguez

2060 starts

24 DNF (1.16%)

8 others beaten 40+ lengths


Todd Pletcher

5016 starts

34 DNF (0.67%)

36 others beaten 40+ lengths

(Reminder: the DNF numbers include ALL horses that did not finish including races where the horse dropped the jockey)

Contessa has the same number of DNF horses but has started nearly 1000 more horses. Rodriguez has a similar percentage of DNF runners, but just eight that were beaten 40+ lengths. Pletcher’s numbers look much better, but again he has much better stock and rarely runs cheap claimers.

Maggi Moss probably summed it up best on Facebook where she wrote, “It’s this simple, owners do not have to “love their horses, or feed them carrots, BUT AS LICENSED OWNERS, you do have a responsibility to not treat horses as monopoly pieces, nor run them every week. Finding a reputable home for them when they can’t compete gives them a shot of not being slaughtered, or living their life crippled or in pain.”

Jacobson-trained horses won $7.5 million in 2013, a career year for the trainer. Most of his wins came for Drawing Away Racing Stable.

For such a successful trainer and owner, I can’t find anything on their website or online that indicates there is any plan for finding their horses a home when they retire.

Until Jacobson lets fans and horseplayers know there is a plan other than jamming a horse in for $4,000 hoping to get claimed, the criticism will continue each time one of his horses is eased or shows up at Suffolk.



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