By Karen M. Johnson
A head bob determined the winner of the $150,000 Top Flight Handicap (gr.II) (VIDEO) at Aqueduct Nov. 23 when Mini Sermon prevailed by a nose over pacesetter Lady Marlboro in the one-mile race for fillies and mares.
Mini Sermon, ridden by Eibar Coa, raced on the rail in third down the backstretch. The eventual winner was in behind horses around the far turn, but Coa found running room, and swung Mini Sermon to the outside at the top of the stretch. Lady Marlboro, who set the pace through fractions of :23.38, :46.98, and 1:11.96, had the lead turning for home. Mini Sermon joined her from the outside for a prolonged stretch duel.
Golden Velvet, the 2-1 favorite in the field of eight, 2 1/4 lengths back in third behind Lady Marlboro. The order of finish was completed by Cindy’s Mom, Altesse, Pool Land, Lost Etiquette, and Baby Bird.
The winner returned $15.60. The exacta paid $106, and the trifecta, $414.
Mini Sermon, who carried 116 pounds, completed the distance in 1:37.29 on a track labeled good.
“I was trying to bide my time,” Coa said. “At the three-eighths pole, I knew I had some horse, but I didn’t know how much horse. My horse was running, but (Lady Marlboro) wasn’t stopping. (Mini Sermon) kept digging and digging and digging, and finally put a head in front.”
Mini Sermon, a 3-year-old by Pulpit, out of the Storm Cat mare, Ministorm, was bred by her owner, Edward P. Evans. She is trained by Todd Pletcher. Pletcher’s assistant, Seth Benzel, saddled the winner.
“Coming into this race, she was doing everything right,” Benzel said. “(Coa) put a perfect ride on her. He saved ground and let her relax. He was able to move her out, and wear them down after that. I don’t know what they are going to do with her. I certainly think she would be very useful (at Aqueduct).”
The Top Flight was Mini Sermon’s first win in a graded race. She has a record of 5-1-2 from nine starts and earnings of $256,100.