05/08/2002 11:00PM

Wopping good Nassau


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Mark Hennig always thought highly of Wopping as a 2-year-old, but it wasn't until the filly's 3-year-old debut last month at Gulfstream Park that the rest of us saw why.

On April 11, Wopping romped to a 12 1/2-length victory in a conditioned allowance race at Gulfstream, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 99.

"She's grown a lot, filled out a lot, she's a lot stronger filly than she was as a 2-year-old," Hennig said. "She trained well going into the race, she's trained well since. Hopefully, that wasn't a hoax. Hopefully, she has improved that much and she's going to continue to improve."

If Wopping does improve off that allowance race, she could be the right one in a contentious eighth renewal of the $200,000 Nassau County Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park. The Grade 2 Nassau County, a seven-furlong race which serves as a prep for the Grade 1 Acorn on June 7, shares billing Saturday with the $100,000, Grade 3 Bold Ruler for older sprinters featuring the return of multiple Grade 1 winner Left Bank.

A field of nine was entered for the Nassau County including unbeaten fillies Carson Hollow, Lethal Temper, and Wilzada. Carson Hollow could scratch to run in next Sunday's Bouwerie for New York-breds.

Two things in Wopping's favor Saturday are her affinity for Belmont and the appearance of several speed horses in the field. In a span of 18 days last fall, Wopping won a high-priced maiden claimer and a preliminary allowance race here. Second, Wopping should be able to sit a trip off the speed of Infinite Spirit, Lethal Temper, and Carson Hollow, if she runs.

Dust Me Off showed speed while winning the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss, but that was around two turns. Trainer Allen Jerkens is hoping to see Mark Guidry rate Dust Me Off Saturday because she's going to have to be rated to be effective in the Acorn, trainer Allen Jerkens said.

"She never gave the impression she has to have the lead," Jerkens said.

Trainer Tony Dutrow has repeatedly said Wilzada is the best 3-year-old filly in his barn, and he has several good ones. Wilzada, who is 3 for 3, should work out a good stalking trip under Norberto Arroyo Jr. from the outside post.

Infinite was talented enough to defeat 2-year-old champion Tempera earlier this year in her dirt debut in Dubai. However, she won it on the lead and she doesn't figure to get control of the early pace in here.