08/15/2007 11:00PM

Mini Sermon latest Pletcher product


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Rags to Riches, pretty much everybody in the country knows. Octave, well, she's the favorite in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes this weekend at Saratoga. Cotton Blossom is retired now, but she was near the top of the 3-year-old filly class. How about Panty Raid, who won the prestigious American Oaks?

In summation, the Todd Pletcher stable is more than slightly strong in terms of 3-year-old fillies. And still another one, Mini Sermon, is all but certain to be favored on Saturday in the Arlington Oaks.

Mini Sermon was one of seven fillies entered in the Grade 3, $100,000 Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race on Polytrack. It's a decent bunch, too, but if Mini Sermon holds her form, she'll be difficult to beat.

Mini Sermon debuted with a third-place finish this past winter at Gulfstream Park, was a troubled, close second in her second start, and hasn't lost since. She won her maiden at Keeneland, an allowance race and a restricted stakes at Belmont, and captured the Sweetest Chant, Arlington's Oaks prep, by a measured length. Marquee Delivery, another entrant in the local Oaks, made up two lengths on Mini Sermon between the stretch call and the finish line, but jockey Rene Douglas was not asking Mini Sermon for her best.

"I don't think she was under a tremendously hard drive at that stage," Pletcher said. "We were planning on running her back on three weeks, so if there was the opportunity to save something, we were going to try and do it."

The 1 1/16-mile Sweetest Chant marked Mini Sermon's first two-turn try after five one-turn races, but Pletcher said he'd attempted to stretch out Mini Sermon as far back as Keeneland in the spring, and that she'd wound up in one-turn races only because of circumstances. Mini Sermon is by Pulpit and out of a Storm Cat mare, a pedigree that further suggests Saturday's longer trip is within her range.

Marquee Delivery, meanwhile, has run well in all six of her races, but has won only one of them, a Keeneland maiden race at seven furlongs. Marietta, who ships in from Saratoga for trainer Eoin Harty, won her maiden going two turns at Keeneland, and captured the Iowa Oaks on June 29 in her most recent outing. Aspiring dead-heated for third behind Mini Sermon last out. Humble Janet exits a fourth-place finish in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga. Marquise has beaten lesser foes in her two starts this year. And Kiss With a Twist makes her stakes debut.