09/10/2002 11:00PM

Birdie's back in top form


MIAMI - Last year, Flying Birdie was far and away the most dominant 3-year-old sprinter on the grounds, winning 6 of 7 starts, including three stakes, with her only setback a one-length loss to Fly Me Crazy in her 2001 finale. She was particularly unstoppable at five furlongs, both on turf and dirt, winning all three of her starts at the distance by an average margin of five lengths.

But after opening her 4-year-old campaign with a hard-fought nose victory over Elvi Gamble in Gulfstream Park's Marshua River Stakes, Flying Birdie went on a three-race losing streak, including an improbable sixth-place finish as the 2-5 favorite in the Cool Stakes at Calder on June 3. It all led to speculation that the fleet Flying Birdie might have seen her best days.

Doubts were put to rest on Monday, however, when Flying Birdie looked like her old self once again. She won the Reign Dance Handicap by seven widening lengths while equaling the five-furlong main track record of 57.60 seconds.

"She is just rounding back to her top form again," said owner-trainer Happy Alter, who claimed Flying Birdie for $57,500 during the winter of 2001. "In her previous start, when she finished second, she didn't seem to like the turf,which was a bit on the soggy side that day."

The biggest problem Alter may have for Flying Birdie is finding suitable spots the remainder of the year. The most lucrative five-furlong race this meet is the $100,000 Calder Turf Sprint on Oct. 12, which means Alter would have to run his filly against males.

"I don't think I want to run her against the colts," said Alter. "Especially since that race usually attracts some good horses from other parts of the country. For now, I'll try to pick my spots. The best thing is she can run on turf or dirt and it was encouraging to see so many horses stay in the race Monday after it was switched from grass to the main track."

Standridge winning with everything

The hottest trainer on the grounds of late has been Steve Standridge, who ran off five straight victories from Aug. 30 through Sept. 7. The streak was snapped when Imagineering finished second in last Saturday's ninth race after being forced to steady very sharply into the far turn. Standridge picked right up where he left off the following day, making it 6 for 7 by sending out Appealing Lover to victory in Sunday's sixth race.

Juvenile stakes nominations

Nominations have been released for next weekend's $100,000 Honest Pleasure Stakes and its filly counterpart, the $100,000 Brave Raj. Both races are for 2-year-olds and will be decided at a mile and 70 yards.

Ivanavinalot, easy winner of the Susan's Girl Stakes, middle leg of the Florida Stallion Stakes, heads a group of 11 juveniles fillies nominated for the Brave Raj.

Trust N Luck, who lost his rider as the 4-5 favorite in the Affirmed division of the Stallion Stakes, was one of 16 colts and geldings made eligible for the Foolish Pleasure.