08/06/2003 11:00PM

First-out winner gains fan club

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Tabacchi, the 2-year-old colt who made an impressive debut Saturday at Monmouth Park, is being pointed to the $300,000 Delaware Park NATC Stakes on Aug. 30 at six furlongs. But that target could become moot should the colt change hands in the near future.

According to trainer Terri Pompay, offers to purchase Tabacchi trickled in after his debut.

"At first, the owners weren't inclined to sell," said Pompay, who handles the negotiations on behalf of Sterling Stables. "It is a decision they have to weight carefully."

"We've had a lot of offers," said Pompay, who confirmed on Thursday morning that the scales have started to shift in favor of a sale. The colt was purchased for $52,000 at the August 2002 Ocala sale.

"On one hand, I'd really hate to see him go to somebody else," Pompay said. "On the other, it's a business decision."

The new owner, if a sale happens, will acquire one of the most impressive 2-year-olds to debut at Monmouth this summer.

Shuffled back in the pack in the early stages, Tabacchi gathered momentum entering the turn and kicked into high gear under Joe Bravo. He briefly dueled with Hurricane Hunter at the top of the lane before galloping off to a 3 1/4-length win.

The chestnut colt ran the five furlongs in 57.89, and Bravo had a hard time pulling him up. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 76 for the effort.

A son of South African champion Horse Chestnut out of the Woodman mare Arctic Interlude, Tabacchi gives every indication by appearance and pedigree that he will appreciate increased distance.

Last Haskell shippers depart

Excessivepleasure and Kool Humor, the two remaining Haskell horses on the grounds who shipped in for the race, departed Monmouth Wednesday afternoon.

Jack Bruner, the trainer of Kool Humor, attempted a Tuesday getaway but was foiled when the heavy thunderstorms forced cancellation of the flight back to Texas.

Late surface switch

The decision to shift the two grass races on the Thursday card to the main track was made extremely late - 25 minutes before the first race.

The effort to attempt grass racing was surprising, considering that the Jersey shore had been hit with rain every day this week.

Several riders walked the course around noon and found it too soggy.

"We saw a lot of water out there," Chuckie Lopez said. "There were a lot of soft spots from where we ran on it Sunday.

"We deemed it too soft to ride on it for two races today when we're going to need it for the weekend."