Just guessing off the top of my head you may want to have a look at the transaction settings you are using
I already tried "bean" and "container" and, on the container params: Required, RequiresNew and Mandatory. Always the same result (I mean: Select Count (*) + Insert)...
No, there is no way to omit the select (*). It will be configurable in a future release, but it is not a high priority. BTW, have you tested you application to be sure that it is an expensive call. I get a lot of complaints about stuff being slow from people who have not tested the application (and don't do a micro benchmark, holistic benchmarks are the only true test).