04/02/2002 1:00AM

Tiger Trap should return in right way


ARCADIA, Calif. - The last time Tiger Trap and Whoopddoo raced, they weren't "right." There is reason to believe they will be on Thursday, when they return in the two best races on the Santa Anita card.

Tiger Trap was considered Epsom Derby material last spring, but those plans were scrapped when he was foiled in a two-other-than allowance. Tiger Trap returned for a fall campaign that also did not pan out, and trainer Neil Drysdale gave Tiger Trap a winter break. It ends Thursday at Santa Anita.

Likewise, the filly Whoopddoo was not right when trainer Bob Baffert kept running her long over the winter.

"When they they turn for home and start zig-zagging down the stretch, you know they're going too far," Baffert said.

He shortened Whoopddoo to one turn last month, and she responded with a decisive three-length win.

Tiger Trap heads a field of five in race 2, a two-other-than optional $100,000 claimer at 1 1/2 miles on grass. Whoopddoo heads a field of seven fillies and mares in race 7, a 6 1/2-furlong two-other-than sprint.

Although Tiger Trap has not raced in more than four months, his work pattern suggests he is fit. Since late February, Tiger Trap has worked at least six furlongs an average of once a week. Owned by Team Valor, Tiger Trap has made only seven starts, and the 4-year-old may have more upside potential than any in the field. He has a history of running well fresh.

Gary Stevens rides Tiger Trap, whose rivals include Cosmipolitan, a one-paced sort who should handle the distance; Loving, also trained by Drysdale; likely pacesetter Komistar; and Our Main Man, prepping for a long-distance turf stakes for California-breds. If the best horse wins race 2, it will be Tiger Trap in the winner's circle.

While race 7 is less clear, Whoopddoo enters with the fewest questions. She won a strong one-other-than allowance March 13, has trained well since, and her physical appearance supports her improved form.

"She's looking better, she's keeping weight on," Baffert said. "Fillies in the winter, they're hard to keep going."

Whoopddoo and Victor Espinoza are stuck in post 1 against several qualified contenders. Mon Ange looked like a potential star last year, but stalled when she was overmatched and entered at inappropriate distances. The race Thursday marks the first time since fall she has faced allowance sprinters.

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