07/22/2008 12:00AM

A Little Gem back home in sprint


OCEANPORT, N.J. - A Little Gem makes her first start since January in the $41,000 first-level allowance feature for fillies and mares Thursday at Monmouth Park, the track where she has had the only success in her brief career.

The 3-year-old is 2 for 6, with both victories coming here in a maiden race and the Sorority Stakes. She suffered double-digit losses in her next three starts, including the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park.

A Little Gem is back at Monmouth and in a new barn with trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. The Martin L. Cherry homebred shows three works for the comeback, including a bullet 1:01.40 for five furlongs last Friday.

"She has trained well and she looks good," Plesa said. "The owner thinks she has a fondness for this racetrack, and I wouldn't disagree with that. That's the reason she came here to me after they freshened her up. From what I gathered, they just gave her some time off to let her grow."

Elvis Trujillo gets the mount as A Little Gem faces five rivals in the six-furlong race. The conditions offered optional claiming for $32,000, but none of the fillies is in for the tag.

Trainer Steve Margolis, who trained A Little Gem before the barn change, will send out New York City Girl.

Like A Little Gem, New York City Girl has a new trainer, having transferred from Todd Pletcher. New York City Girl has not run since September, with all four starts in her 2-year-old campaign coming in New Jersey.

She won the Colleen Stakes before running fourth to A Little Gem in the Sorority. Her final race of the campaign was a fourth-place finish in the NATC Futurity at the Meadowlands.

Jose Lezcano will be aboard.

While four of the six runners are returning from extended layoffs, Heckuva Good Time makes her fifth start of an already successful season. After kicking off the campaign with a neck loss at Philadelphia Park, Heckuva Good Time reeled off consecutive wins at Monmouth against New Jersey-breds, including a victory in the Open Mind Handicap.

The 4-year-old trained by Mark Shuman most recently tackled open company, finishing second in a similar spot here June 25. Her combination of good early speed and superior Beyer Speed Figures - 85 and 86 in her last two races - makes her the one to catch.