03/30/2002 1:00AM

Irisheyesareflying an odds-on winner


ALBANY, Calif. - Irisheyesareflying, a $50,000 claim who won $500,000 last year, scored his first victory of 2002, winning the Berkeley Handicap (G3) at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.

Owner-trainer John K. Dolan took his time deciding whether to run the 6-year-old horse in the race after a tough trip in Santa Anita Handicap on March 2 and a faster-than-expected 58.80 five-furlong work on Monday.

But he was happy with his decision after the race as Irisheyesareflying ($3.80) held off Boss Ego by one-half length to win the one-mile race in 1:35.41.

"There's always one or two down south that are better than he is. I should just keep looking at Grade 3's for him," said Dolan, who saw his star win the Longacres Mile (G3) and Cal Cup Classic last year.

"He was a little knocked out by the Santa Anita Handicap. I thought this was a good spot for him, but he worked a little fast Monday, and it's a hassle to ship him."

Once the starting gate opened, there were no hassles or problems.

Irisheyesareflying was floated wide into the first turn but had a perfect stalking position behind Bring The Heat and I'madrifter. He took the lead at the quarter pole and finished well to hold off long-shot Boss Ego.

The victory was worth $55,000 to increase his lifetime earnings to $710,256.