07/11/2006 12:00AM

Little Money Down at crossroad

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Little Money Down faces an important test Thursday in the $48,000 second-level allowance feature at Belmont Park. A one-mile race, the allowance has an optional claiming price of $35,000 and has a field of six.

Trainer John Ward said he is still uncertain whether Little Money Down, now 4, is a sprinter or a router, but he hopes to garner clues in Thursday's race.

"We kind of split the difference on distance," Ward said. "This is a key race for us about which direction we turn. I'm really interested to watch it. This will set us up for whatever we want to do at Saratoga."

Little Money Down makes only her sixth career start and first beyond seven furlongs. After finishing sixth in her debut in November 2004 at Aqueduct, she has two wins and two seconds in her last four races, earning Beyer Speed Figures of 96, 98, 92, and 92.

joined Ward's barn in early 2005 and ran twice at Gulfstream Park. In her second start for the new connections, Little Money Down was second by a half-length in the Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes at seven furlongs on March 5. She suffered a tendon injury about three weeks later, which eventually required surgery.

"We gave her the required time," Ward said. "The doctors say that if you give them the required time, there is an 80 percent chance that they come back. So far they've been right."

Off for more than a year, Little Money Down began her comeback here June 8 and put up a game battle to finish second at six furlongs.

Ward said he hopes the Thursday race jumpstarts a career that has shown promise.

"The way she's training now, I think we're on the tip of a solid campaign," Ward said. "You always worry about a horse like this who has had a tendon injury, but she's a dead-fit horse."

, one of two 3-year-olds in the race, has the most stakes experience. Her last six races have been stakes, including a victory in the Grade 3 Tempted here last October. Most recently, Better Now was third in an overnight stakes, the Beru, at Belmont on May 14.

Trainer Gary Contessa sent to Monmouth Park for the Little Silver Stakes for 3-year-olds on June 4. She applied some pace pressure before finishing third by 9 3/4 lengths.

Completing the field are Birthday Song, Awesome Exchange, and Heavenly Psalm.