06/20/2007 12:00AM

Mini Sermon stepping up


ELMONT, N.Y. - Todd Pletcher hopes the $65,000 Marking Time Stakes Friday at Belmont Park provides a springboard to bigger and better things for Mini Sermon.

An overnight stakes for 3-year-old fillies who have not won a graded stakes in 2007, the Marking Time tops a card that gets under way at

3 p.m.

The one-mile race attracted six runners, including three - Autobahn Girl, Lady Marlboro, and Officer in Pursuit - who ran in graded stakes last time out.

In contrast, this is the first stakes for Mini Sermon, whose record stands at 2-1-1 in 4 starts, with victories in the last two.

She rallied for a neck victory in a maiden race over the Polytrack at Keeneland on April 14.

In an allowance race at Belmont on May 10, Mini Sermon shook off an early bump to press the pace and drew off to a 4 1/4-length win in the one-mile race.

"Her last two races were very good," Pletcher said. "The race at a mile, she handled it well. She was under some pressure, and she was able to shake that off."

Now comes a much stiffer test.

"We feel that this is a good stepping-stone to the next level," Pletcher said. "You can get some black type without jumping into the deep end. She's an improving filly that hopefully has a good future."

Autobahn Girl lands in a much easier spot than her last race. Her last outing was an eighth-place finish behind Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 4.

Before that, Autobahn Girl contested two stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, winning the Suncoast before running fourth in the Florida Oaks.

Trained by Nick Zito, she should be sharp following three snappy workouts at Saratoga.

Officer in Pursuit also faced Grade 1 company last time, finishing a distant sixth in the Acorn Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard. She has run well in lesser stakes spots for Gary Contessa, Belmont's leading trainer. She captured the National Treasure Stakes over Aqueduct's inner track in late March and was fourth in the Big A's Grade 2 Comely Stakes on April 14.

Contessa also will send out the New York-bred My Kitty, who will run as a separate betting interest.

Like Mini Sermon, Lady Marlboro will be making her fifth start. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, she was a distant second in the Grade 2 Nassau County Breeders' Cup Stakes here on May 5, finishing 9 1/4 lengths behind Dream Rush.

Drama Lady, a winner of 2 of her last 3, completes the field.