11/21/2007 1:00AM

Pool Land facing sharp pair

EmailOZONE PARK, N.Y. - It will be the established Grade 1 winner Pool Land versus upstarts Golden Velvet and Lady Marlboro in Friday's Grade 2, $150,000 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct.

The Top Flight, contested at a mile around one turn, drew a field of eight.

Pool Land, a 5-year-old daughter of Silver Deputy, returned from a layoff of nearly 11 months with a half-length victory over Altesse in the Beautiful Pleasure Stakes at Belmont on Sept. 26. In that race, Pool Land got loose on the lead through a half-mile in 46.98 seconds before turning back two challenges in the last quarter mile from Altesse. It was Pool Land's seventh victory from 10 career starts.

"I was really pleased how she came back, knowing going in she would benefit with the race," trainer Tom Albertrani said. "I'd like to see her move forward off of that race, but I liked the fact that she came back and she ran to expectations."

This race figures to be much tougher for Pool Land, who as the 121-pound highweight will be spotting five to eight pounds to her seven rivals. Eddie Castro will ride Pool Land from post 7.

Though she is coming off just a first-level allowance victory, Golden Velvet may be the biggest threat to Pool Land. In her North American debut, Golden Velvet, a half-sister to Hopeful winner Sky Mesa, split horses decisively in the stretch under Alan Garcia after being blocked behind a wall of four horses around the turn.

In her only other try on dirt, Golden Velvet finished fourth - placed third via disqualification - against males in a stakes race at Nad al Sheba in which she carried 127 pounds.

"It's a big step up against a Grade 1 winner, but I wouldn't trade places with anybody," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

Lady Marlboro, a daughter of Smoke Glacken, comes off a five-length victory in the Life's Magic Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 12. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens believes she benefited from a track that favored outside closers that day.

"It all came together," Jerkens said. "She was doing good, she got a good trip, a good ride. At Belmont everybody was coming down the middle the way she was."

Altesse was favored in the Turnback the Alarm Handicap here on Nov. 4, but was eased when jockey John Velazquez's rein broke early in the race. Lost Etiquette chased Tessa Blue around a sloppy Monmouth Park strip when second in the Inside Information Stakes.

Baby Bird, Cindy's Mom, and Mini Sermon complete the field.