10/09/2003 11:00PM

If it rains, lookout for McMahon


STICKNEY, Ill. - About the only thing that would bring clarity to the $40,000 Crafty Drone Stakes at Hawthorne on Sunday is rain.

The Crafty Drone, scheduled for a mile on turf, drew 11 entrants when the race was drawn Friday, and it'll take hair-splitting to separate the top contenders if the race stays on grass.

Move it to dirt, however, and McMahon looks like a standout. With a chance of rain on Sunday, McMahon has a chance of getting the surface he needs to be at his best. McMahon hasn't raced since May 26, but ignore the long layoff. His trainer, Michelle Boyce, excels with comeback horses, and McMahon has been working up a storm on the Hawthorne main track.

McMahon has little experience on grass, and doesn't figure to be a factor if the race remains on grass. Al's Dearly Bred is the likely favorite, and has won two straight, but has drawn somewhat poorly on the outside and has little margin for error.

Al's Dearly Bred narrowly beat Holy Conflict in a common last race, but Holy Conflict has drawn two stalls outside Al's Dearly Bred. Holy Conflict must hope to drop in for position before the first turn, and there is no shortage of contenders to the inside. Image, Attack the Books, Ivan Jay Perry, and General's Sword - a winner of four straight - all could win with the right trip.

Block reels off wins in bunches

Six racing days, four grass wins, and a tie for leading trainer at Hawthorne: That's the status of Chris Block, who unleashed a flurry of turf winners in the opening stages of the Hawthorne meet.

The irony is that Block gears his season around the Arlington meet. He had a solid summer there, but never went through the kind of hot streak he has opened with in this stand.

"I'm just leading them over there and running them," Block said. "To say that anything has changed with these horses since Arlington isn't true."

Block won Sept. 28, opening day, with Ioya Forever, who, along with Without a Doubt, are his only winners on dirt. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 8, Block won four grass races, including two on Sept. 8 with Slide to Glory and Lighthouse Lil.

"Did I think they'd run well? Yes, but I thought that the last 10 starts," said Block. "I just think they're all doing well, running their race, and getting good rides."

Meanwhile, Block continues to point Apt to Be to the Grade 3 Ack Ack on Oct. 26 at Churchill. Apt to Be has looked strong in his last two starts, wins in the Grade 3 Hanshin and a high-end allowance race at Arlington.

Ajedrez's status up in the air

Drubbed in the Grade 1 Vosburgh on Sept. 27 at Belmont, Ajedrez at least came out of the race in decent physical condition. He returned to the work tab on Thursday at Hawthorne, breezing an easy three furlongs.

What's next on his agenda remains uncertain right now, according to trainer Wayne Catalano. "We're undecided at the moment," Catalano said. "We'll look around at a few things."

Ajedrez, an Argentine import, won his first three starts in this country - all Arlington allowance races last summer - without being challenged. But Grade 1-caliber competition was simply too much.

"He was overmatched," said Catalano. "He scoped okay after the race. I think he just got outrun. They just kept running away from him every time he tried to make a run, and he threw in the towel."

Catalano isn't throwing in the towel, but after a huge Arlington meet his stable is in a down cycle. Through Thursday's races at Hawthorne, Catalano had just one win from 10 starters, and many of those losers were short-priced favorites.

Sue's Good News out for the season

Sue's Good News, winner of the Grade 3 Singapore Plate at Arlington this summer, is done for the season, her trainer Steve Hobby said.

Sue's Good News leaves Hawthorne on Saturday and will spend the next couple months turned out at a farm. Hobby plans to bring Sue's Good News back at the Oaklawn Park meet early next year.

After starting her career with four straight wins, Sue's Good News was badly beaten in the Delaware Oaks. She quickly bounced back to win the Singapore Plate, but was dogged by bad luck throughout the year. Typical of the way things went, she came out of a sixth-place finish in the Indiana Oaks last weekend with a lung infection.

"Hopefully next year we'll have the luck," Hobby said.