02/09/2010 1:00AM

Shabaab gets a spot on grass


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Michael Pino has been looking forward to the opportunity to put Shabaab on the turf ever since he got the horse in his barn last year. That opportunity finally arrives on Wednesday, when the well-bred gelding goes five furlongs on the grass in the $48,000 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park.

Shabaab was purchased for $300,000 as a yearling during the summer of 2007 by Shadwell Farm and began his career with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. But after tiring badly in his debut in December of his 2-year-old campaign, Shabaab went to the sidelines and did not resurface until 10 months later under a $25,000 claiming tag with Pino at Woodbine.

"When he came to me he had issues, and it took us a little while to get him to the races," Pino explained. "I get some horses from Shadwell with problems like that, and we try to get them to the races as best we can. When he was finally right to run, I decided to start him out where I could get him to win off the bat."

Shabaab made easy work of claiming competition in his return, leading throughout to post a four-length victory over the synthetic surface at Woodbine. He finished second under allowance conditions in his only other start at 3 before shipping locally, where he ran fifth after setting a lively pace to midstretch going six furlongs here on Jan. 16.

"The whole idea to bring him here was to get him on the grass," said Pino. "I was surprised he went that fast in his first start at the meet, but he was sharp and didn't really settle. If he could have gone a little slower he would have probably hung on better. But five-eighths on the grass should really hit him right on the head. He's by Stormy Atlantic out of a Rahy mare, so with that breeding he should handle the grass without any problem."

Shabaab has caught a relatively weak field for his turf debut, with the best horse in the lineup, Barge, entered for the main track only by trainer Todd Pletcher. Barge returned from a nine-month layoff to post an easy 3 1/4-length maiden win against $50,000 claiming rivals three weeks ago.

The well-traveled Forest Tour, trained by Michael Leahy, returns to allowance conditions after closing out his 3-year-old season finishing far back in Keeneland's Grade 3 Woodford Stakes over a soft course on Oct. 10.