The top three finishers from Aqueduct’s Nov. 23 Top Flight Handicap (gr. II), led by Edward P. Evans’ Mini Sermon, will meet again in the $150,000 Sabin Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 6.
Mini Sermon, carrying the top weight of 118, will face down the Top Flight's second-place finisher Lady Marlboro, who lost by just a nose in the New York race. Third-place finisher Golden Velvet also takes on the one-mile event for older fillies and mares. The Nick Zito-trained Silver Knockers will add an interesting twist while coming off a fourth-place effort in the Oct. 27 Ms. Woodford Stakes at Monmouth Park.
Of the six entrants, Mini Sermon has the strongest credentials. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the 4-year-old Pulpit filly has only finished off the board in one of nine career starts. Prior to the Top Flight, her first graded win, she ran third in the Oct. 23 Lexus Raven Run Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland. The Raven Run followed her only bad performance, a sixth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Arlington Park Oaks (gr. III). Before that attempt, the Virginia homebred had a four-race winning streak that included victories in Arlington’s Sweetest Chant Stakes and Aqueduct’s Marking Time Stakes, which she won by a length over Lady Marlboro. Her last work, five furlongs at Palm Beach Downs, was in 1:00.20 on Dec. 31.
Lady Marlboro, a 4-year-old daughter of Smoke Glacken , finished behind Mini Sermon in the Top Flight after winning the Oct. 12 Life’s Magic Stakes at Belmont. While she has only won two races for owners Susan and John Moore, the filly has placed in a number of black type events including the grade II Nassau County Breeders’ Cup Stakes and the Monmouth Breeders’ Cup Oaks (gr. III). She posted a four furlong work at Palm Meadows on Jan. 2, going the distance in :49 flat.
Golden Velvet, owned by Darley Stable, had one victory in an allowance optional claimer under her belt before the Top Flight, and she was making only her second start in North America. Previously, the 5-year-old Seeking the Goldmare raced in France and Dubai. Her last work, at Palm Meadows on Dec. 31, was four furlongs in :49.20.
Silver Knockers, owned by James Moran Jr., has been a relatively consistent performer in graded company, but still seeks her first stakes win in six attempts. The 4-year-old Silver Deputyfilly did not race as a 2-year-old, breaking her maiden at first asking and winning her second start in an allowance race in 2007. She placed in two graded events last year – Gulfstream’s Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II) and the Adena Stallions’ Miss Preakness Stakes (gr. III) at Pimlico – and came in third in Belmont’s Prioress Stakes (gr. I) before her last effort. She posted a Dec. 29 work at Palm Meadows, going four furlongs in :48.60.
Cindy’s Mom, coming off a third-place finish in the Dec. 22 Stage Door Betty Handicap (gr. III), and the Argentina-bred Potra Clasica complete the field.
$150,000 Sabin Handicap (gr. III, race 7, 4:50 p.m.), one mile for fillies and mares, 4-years-old and upward, dirt
PP, Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Lady Marlboro, 116, Javier Castellano
2. Golden Velvet, 115, Eibar Coa
3. Silver Knockers, 117, Cornelio Velasquez
4. Potra Clasica, 112, Elvis Trujillo
5. Cindy's Mom, 114, Eddie Castro
6. Mini Sermon, 118, John Velazquez