01/04/2008 12:00AM

Trio get rematch in Sabin


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - When the top three finishers from the Top Flight Handicap renew their rivalry Sunday in the Sabin Handicap at Gulfstream, they'll have plenty of elbow room to do so.

Only six fillies and mares are entered in the $150,000 Sabin, and it doesn't seem implausible that one or two of those may scratch. Both Potra Clasica and Cindy's Mom just ran in Dec. 29 stakes races at Calder, and it isn't unreasonable to think that one or both helped to fill the race when entries were taken Thursday.

In any case, any relevant storyline in regard to this 18th running of the Grade 3 Sabin must include a careful review of the Grade 2 Top Flight, run Nov. 23 at a one-turn mile at Aqueduct. Mini Sermon came from just off the pace to win by a nose over Lady Marlboro, who had made all the pace, while Golden Velvet, the 2-1 favorite, rallied mildly to finish another 2 1/4 lengths back in third. All three are back Sunday in the Sabin, which also will be run at a mile around one turn.

In the rematch, Mini Sermon, trained by Todd Pletcher, will break from the outside post under John Velazquez. Lady Marlboro, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, will break from the rail under Javier Castellano.

In an interesting twist, Eibar Coa, who rode Mini Sermon in the Top Flight, now gets the mount on Golden Velvet, who had been ridden by Alan Garcia, who has remained in New York for the winter.

"I really liked Pletcher's filly, and I don't know the reason I'm not back on her," said Coa, adding with a smile: "I don't know much about Kiaran's filly - but hopefully she's better."

Golden Velvet was favored in the Top Flight off an eye-catching triumph in an October allowance at Belmont Park in her North American debut. Before that, the Darley Stable mare had raced with modest success in France and Dubai.

After the Top Flight trio and the two Calder wheel-backs, the Sabin field is completed by Silver Knockers, a Nick Zito-trained filly who figures into the early mix after racing primarily in shorter races.

The Sabin, named for the star turf mare owned by Henryk de Kwiatkowski and trained by Woody Stephens in the mid-1980s, goes as the seventh of 10 races on a Sunday card anchored by the Hal's Hope Handicap.