10/02/2007 12:00AM

Contessa has several with a shot

EmailELMONT, N.Y. - It's just a routine Thursday at Belmont Park, but that's fine with trainer Gary Contessa, who entered October with a three-win meet lead, and entered six bread-and-butter types on the card, starting with the entry of Itsnotthemoney and Higher Incentive in the opener, a $30,000 optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the Widener turf.

The Mike Hushion-trained Nedjma, freshened since running fifth in the Yaddo Handicap, figures to vie for favoritism with the entry of Kats Golden Ways and Nehantic Kat for the red-hot Barclay Tagg.

Itsnotthemoney was in tough against subsequent Grade 2 winner Makderah here in May, but faces no such rival among the nine others entered for turf.

"This is the level she wants to be at," said Contessa, who noted Higher Incentive, who ran last Thursday, is unlikely to come back on short rest.

Race 3 is a seven-furlong $50,000 claimer, a level Dashboard Drummer hasn't seen since a nose loss last October. Though Dashboard Drummer has tailed off since graded-stakes placings in the Bold Ruler and True North, Contessa said he believes the 6-year-old gelding's latest - a fifth in an optional claiming race - wasn't a true bill.

"He broke sharp and was taken back, which was the wrong thing to do," Contessa said. "He fits very well, and I don't think this is a terribly tough '50.' "

Dashboard Drummer drew outside in a six-horse field where the fastest last-out Beyer Speed Figures belong to Fly So Far and He's a Pioneer, who finished noses apart in an allowance run over a sloppy track at Philadelphia Park.

Race 6 is a field of 11 New York-bred maiden claimers where the top Beyer is a mere 62, and includes one first-time starter - the Contessa-trained Autauga.

"If he behaves himself, he has a chance," said Contessa.

In race 7, a $20,000 3-year-old claimer at a mile, the best last-out Beyer, albeit narrowly, belongs to Exceleration.

"I'm not positive about a mile," said Contessa, "but he fits at this level."

Contessa's day ends with the freshly claimed Moneypenny, who goes route to sprint in race 8, a starter allowance at six furlongs on the inner turf.

"If there's enough pace she's got a shot," he said, "but the turf is a highway right now - we need rain."