11/23/2007 12:00AM

Another photo goes Coa's way

EmailOZONE PARK, N.Y. - Eibar Coa is living the good life these days.

One day after his mount won the Fall Highweight Handicap by a head, Coa was again on the right side of a photograph, getting Mini Sermon up by a head over a stubborn Lady Marlboro in Friday's Grade 2, $150,000 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to Golden Velvet, the 2-1 favorite, in third.

Cindy's Mom finished fourth and was followed by Altesse, Pool Land, Lost Etiquette, and Baby Bird.

It was the first graded stakes victory for Mini Sermon, who was coming off sound defeats in two graded events run over synthetic surfaces.

With no one eager for the lead, Lady Marlboro, under Javier Castellano, took command coming out of the chute and set fractions of 23.38 seconds, 46.98, and 1:11.96 while being pressed from the outside by Pool Land.

Mini Sermon, meanwhile, stalked the pace from third while racing inside of Altesse. Approaching the quarter pole, Coa was able to get Mini Sermon off the inside and swung her three wide for the stretch drive.

Lady Marlboro, meanwhile, put away Pool Land in upper stretch, but was soon pounced on by Mini Sermon. Those two ran head and head for the final furlong with Mini Sermon getting up in the final jump. Mini Sermon, a daughter of Pulpit owned and bred by Ned Evans and trained by Todd Pletcher, covered one mile in 1:37.29 over a good track. She returned $15.60 to win.

Coa said he knew it was going to be a tight finish because neither Mini Sermon nor Lady Marlboro was stopping.

Mini Sermon won, he said, despite taking a bad step in the last sixteenth

"She went down behind and lost her momentum,'' Coa said.

Javier Castellano, the rider of Lady Marlboro, said he found himself on the lead by default.

"I thought there would be more speed in the race, but nobody wanted to go to the lead and I didn't want to fight her,'' Castellano said. "It's tough those kind of races you get beat by a head bob. Before the wire I was in the lead and past the wire I was in the lead.''