08/04/2003 12:00AM

Tabacchi smokes maidens in bow

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - The future looks bright for Tabacchi, who on Saturday became one of the most impressive 2-year-olds to debut this summer at Monmouth Park.

Tabacchi had been working strongly in the morning, and the colt's trainer, Terri Pompay, said the biggest challenge was keeping him under control.

"He wants to go," Pompay said. "Mostly, what we worked on was getting him to settle and relax. He's got a good head on his shoulders. He's got a lot of power."

That power was evident in Saturday's race.

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. Tabacchi ran the five furlongs in 57.89 seconds and Bravo had a hard time pulling him up.

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

Pompay has circled the $300,000 Delaware Park NATC Stakes on Aug. 30 at six furlongs as the colt's next target.

The Pompay barn, which started slowly, has begun to heat up. Pompay sends out Letters in Monmouth's Wednesday featured $37,000 allowance race.

Letters broke slowly in his lone start at the meet and ran third.

Jim Dandy show bets not allowed

Several large show bets were made on Empire Maker in Sunday's Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, but if you wanted to place a show bet on that race at Monmouth Park - either as a bridge-jumper on Empire Maker, or a wise-guy hoping Empire Maker would run out of the money - you were out of luck.

Monmouth Park, as allowed under New Jersey racing law, declined to take show wagering on the race, correctly assuming a large minus pool would result if Empire Maker finished in the money. Simulcast rules dictate that the site where a bet is made - not the host track - is responsible for the minus pool generated there.

"New Jersey has a rule that you can apply not to take a show wager under certain conditions," said Bruce Garland, the senior executive vice-president for racing with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns Monmouth Park. The NJSEA has made similar decisions regarding prohibitive favorites in harness races.

Garland said the decision on whether to opt out of a show bet is made by John Grasty, the director of wagering services and simulcast operations.

"He has full authority to do that," Garland said.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman