06/08/2004 12:00AM

Whoopi Cat searching for a spark


ELMONT, N.Y. - Whoopi Cat, a filly who showed much promise at 2 but has fallen on hard times at 3, takes a drop into allowance company Thursday at Belmont Park to try to jump-start her career.

takes on four challengers, including Why You, in a second-level allowance race at six furlongs.

It was at Belmont Park 11 months ago when Whoopi Cat won her debut by six lengths. One month later, she splashed home an easy winner of the Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes at muddy Saratoga, but illness sidelined her the rest of the year.

Whoopi Cat didn't return to the races until January, when she finished sixth of eight in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita. After Whoopi Cat ran fifth in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes, trainer Patrick Biancone sent her to the East, where Whoopi Cat finished second behind Bohemian Lady in the Grade 3 Cicada at Aqueduct on March 20.

"She had a bad cut on her pastern after her last race," Biancone said. "We gave her a break. She's not 100 percent fit, but she's good enough to run."

Biancone said Whoopi Cat has sensitive feet and may not have cared for the harder racing surface at Santa Anita. She has spent the last month training at Saratoga.

"She's trained here better than anywhere else," he said. "Hopefully, she'll run a good race and we can look forward to something else."

With Edgar Prado serving a suspension this week, the red-hot Javier Castellano has picked up the mount.

, a 3-year-old trained by Allen Jerkens, is the horse to beat. Since finishing fourth in her debut, Why You has won two races by open lengths and closed furiously to fall a head short to odds-on favorite Frenchglen in the Jersey Girl Stakes on May 26. Why You earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99 in that race.

Jorge Chavez rides Why You from the rail.

Lady Beelzebub, a shipper from Suffolk Downs, and Western Rush, a front-running allowance winner two starts back at Keeneland, should supply ample pace into which Whoopi Cat and Why You can close. Western Rush adds blinkers, equipment she wore when she won a maiden race at Gulfstream on March 9.

Distinctive Kitten, a New York-bred, is 2-3-1 from eight starts since being claimed by Michael Brice for $14,000 last fall. She has run well at this condition her last three outings and picks up John Velazquez, this meet's leading rider.