08/05/2001 12:00AM

Flying Birdie flies home in the Cool Air


MIAMI - Flying Birdie used a combination of her blinding speed and the abbreviated five-furlong distance of Saturday's $54,100 Cool Air Handicap to register an easy 4 1/2-length victory over 4-5 favorite Penny Blues. The race was originally scheduled to be run on the turf, but was moved to the main track because of weeklong rains.

Flying Birdie bumped briefly with longshot Elo's Creek leaving the gate but quickly recovered to open a clear lead over Carmen Urena, who steadied at the start and was never able to show her best turn of foot. Flying Birdie settled into the stretch with a commanding advantage and was never seriously threatened en route to her fourth straight victory and second since being claimed by owner-trainer Happy Alter for $57,500 at Gulfstream Park in February.

Penny Blues, who finished a troubled fourth in the Grade 3 Princess Rooney Handicap in her previous start, never menaced the winner. She was hard-pressed to outfinish Miss Vermont Jet by a head to be second in the field of six fillies and mares. Elvi Gamble, the 121-pound highweight if the Cool Air went as scheduled on the grass, was scratched.

Flying Birdie paid $5.60 after covering five furlongs in 58.73 seconds over a fast track under jockey Jose Rivera II.

"We know she can run on turf or dirt or mud. Now I'd like to find out if she can stretch out," said Alter of Flying Birdie.

"My filly is too quick, I wasn't even asking," said Rivera. "This is the fastest filly I've ridden in Miami. I didn't move a finger in the gate and she was gone."