04/11/2003 12:00AM

Flying Birdie or Petrina Above?


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - There are two things that are for certain whenever Flying Birdie runs these days. She will be the horse to catch, and if she gets caught Petrina Above will be the one to run her down.

Flying Birdie and Petrina Above will meet for the seventh time since mid-August when they head a full field of 12 fillies and mares going five furlongs on the grass in Sunday's $75,000 Bob Slater Stakes. The race is named in honor of the longtime handicapper and turf writer who died last year.

Flying Birdie led throughout and easily got the best of Petrina Above in the pair's most recent encounter, in an allowance race on March 26. It marked the second time in the last three starts that Flying Birdie came out on top in the battle between them. But Petrina Above still holds a 4-2 edge in the series.

Both horses pick up three pounds from their last meeting and carry 124 pounds. There will also be rider changes for both mares, Gary Boulanger getting the call for the first time on Flying Birdie and Omar Camejo replacing Cornelio Velasquez aboard Petrina Above.

"I'm not worried about the weight or the fact she's coming back in less than three weeks," said Happy Alter, who owns and trains Flying Birdie. "But I am concerned about having to put a different rider on her back. Not because I don't think Gary's an excellent jockey, he's won several big races for me in the past, but because it sometimes takes a rider a couple of times to get used to this filly, especially the way she accelerates when leaving the starting gate.

"Although, all in all, I don't think I'd change my position with anybody in the field."

Flying Birdie and Petrina Birdie will have a few new challengers to contend with in the Bob Slater, including My Girl Lisa, Follow Me Home, and Slipping.

My Girl Lisa won three five-furlong turf stakes in 2002, including Hawthorne's Crafty Drone against males in November. She finished sixth as the even-money favorite in Sam Houston's Willowbrook Stakes in her 2003 debut.

Follow Me Home scored an upset in the five-furlong Dame Mysterieuse Stakes in the opening week of the meeting, but will be making her turf debut if she goes in the Bob Slater.

Slipping, trained by Tom Skiffington, turns back to a sprint off a series of longer races and could finish best of all.