09/11/2002 11:00PM

A rabbit to aid Whywhywhy?

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ELMONT, N.Y. - In an effort to give Whywhywhy his best chance to win Sunday's Grade 1 Futurity at Belmont Park, trainer Patrick Biancone is considering entering the maiden Le Notre as a rabbit to ensure a solid, contested pace.

"I may run Le Notre as a pacemaker," Biancone said from Saratoga. "I'm not sure yet, because I'm not sure who's going to run."

When told that New Jersey shipper Valid Video, a front-running winner of the Grade 3 Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park, may be the main speed in the race, Biancone said, "He may want company."

Le Notre ran against Valid Video in the Sapling and stumbled at the start and got nowhere near Valid Video. Biancone added blinkers to Le Notre's equipment for an entry-level allowance at Saratoga on Aug. 19 when Le Notre made the lead but tired to fourth.

The Futurity, run at one mile, is shaping up to be the most intriguing of the six stakes races run here this weekend. Others pointing to the race are California shipper Truckle Feature, Silver Squire, Storm Cadet, At First Blush, Blakelock, and Cape Good Hope.

Still stinging from the disappointment of Zavata's third-place finish in the Grade 1 Hopeful last month, Biancone hopes to get back to the winner's circle with Whywhywhy, who already this season has won the Flash Stakes and the Sanford Stakes.

"He passed the Grade 3 test without a problem, he passed the Grade 2 test without a problem," Biancone said. "Now let's see how he performs in the Grade 1."

Though Whywhywhy was close up in the Flash Stakes, he was pinched back at the start and rallied from 13 lengths back to win the Sanford at Saratoga. Biancone believes the jump from six furlongs to a mile shouldn't hinder Whywhywhy.

"I will call that a little bit in his favor," Biancone said.

Meanwhile, Biancone said Zavata "is on target" for the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont on Oct. 5.

McLaughlin exceeded expectations

When trainer Kiaran McLaughlin arrived in New York in the spring, he came with mostly second- and third-string horses for the Maktoum family.

"I won't be winning any graded stakes races," McLaughlin said at the time.

But, McLaughlin has won a pair of graded stakes and has the opportunity to win a few more before he heads back to Dubai in early November.

Already this month, McLaughlin has won the Grade 3 Saranac with Ibn Al Haitham and the Grade 3 Boiling Springs Handicap with Showlady. Nowrass won the $125,000 Claiming Crown Emerald at Philadelphia Park. McLaughlin also trained Jilbab, who was transferred to Godolphin's first string before her win in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.

Overall, McLaughlin has enjoyed a solid year winning, 30 races from 160 starts, including going 18 for 72 (25 percent) in New York.

McLaughlin will be looking to add to his totals with Abreeze in Saturday's Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway and next weekend when he sends out Nowrass in the Grade 3, $300,000 Kentucky Cup Turf Handicap at Kentucky Downs Sept. 21 and Ibn Al Haitham in the Grade 2 Jamaica Handicap here Sept. 22.

On Thursday, Ibn Al Haitham worked a half-mile in 51.02 seconds over Belmont's main track.

Meanwhile, McLaughlin said Showlady would be pointed to the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 12.

"That's our Breeders' Cup," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said he would remain in New York through October before returning to Dubai, where he would be in charge of breaking more than 100 yearlings for the Maktoum family while running a 125-horse stable.

Big step for Storm Flag Flying

Had a first-level allowance for 2-year-old fillies filled last week, Storm Flag Flying wouldn't be running in Sunday's $200,000 Matron.

As it is, Storm Flag Flying, who won her career debut at Saratoga on Aug. 18, will make her second start in the Grade 1 Matron, a mile race.

Originally, the filly's trainer, Shug McGaughey, had hoped to run Storm Flag Flying in an allowance race and then back in the $500,000 Frizette here on Oct. 5.

"I was looking for more experience and then I would have run in the Frizette," McGaughey said. "I was trying to give her a little chance, but it didn't work out."

A royally bred daughter of Storm Cat, out of the Easy Goer mare My Flag, Storm Flag Flying raced erratically in her first start but still managed to win the six-furlong race by one length. In the paddock before the race, she acted fractious and dumped jockey John Velazquez.

McGaughey has had plenty of experience with Storm Flag Flying's family, having trained both My Flag and Easy Goer. He also trained My Flag's dam, Personal Ensign.

McGaughey said Storm Flag Flying, who like her mother can be tough to handle, has settled down some since her first start.

"The race helped her a little bit," McGaughey said. "She can be tough to be around. Her mother was a little rough. [Storm Flag Flying] has a better attitude and is not as big, so you can handle her a little bit."

Other probables for the Matron include Fircroft, Wild Snitch, Skipper's Mate, and Runaway Chanel.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson