11/29/2001 1:00AM

'September' would be best on the lead


Although Come September was fairly productive last year when trainer Joe McKellar stretched her out around two turns, the mare has raced exclusively in sprints this year.

"We decided she was probably better sprinting," said McKellar, who trains Come September for the gray mare's breeders, L.J. Gaudreau and Larry Gillen. Indeed, from seven starts this year, Come September has won twice and earned just over $100,000.

But when the $100,000 Little Sucker Stakes, part of the Illinois Sires Series, is run Saturday at Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney, Ill., Come September will be racing around two turns for the first time in nearly a year.

"We're hoping she'll be the speed of the race," said McKellar. "It'll all depend on how the race shapes up, but we'd love for her to be able to control the race."

A field of eight state-bred fillies and mares is entered, with Q.P. Cat the most formidable challenger to Come September. Q.P. Cat, trained by Michael Weissman, also tends to do her best in sprints and should be able stay relatively close to the favorite.

A north Texas native, McKellar, 52, came to Chicago to stay about 10 years ago after traveling much of the eastern U.S. with a mid-sized stable. He has been thrilled with how Come September has emerged as a durable and reliable mare, one who can carry the load for much of the rest of the stable. "It's nice to have an Illinois-bred who can run," he said.

The Little Sucker, carded as the sixth of 10 Saturday races, is named for the hard-hitting filly who raced primarily in Illinois in the mid-1990's. She was trained by Wayne Catalano.

Legal wrangling for Hughes

One of the scheduled starters in the Little Sucker made it into the race only by court injunction.

Little Lighty, a winner of a fourth-level allowance at Fairmount Park in her last start, will represent owner-trainer Dennis Hughes, who on Wednesday was ruled indefinitely suspended after an alleged prerace violation. Hughes was awarded a temporary restraining order Thursday pending a possible appeal.

Hughes and veterinarian Tom Little are now subject to a stewards' investigation after Yes It Is, a $5,000 claimer owned and trained by Hughes, was scratched from the sixth race after Little allegedly visited the filly's stall. Under state law, horses cannot be treated by private veterinarians once prerace security provisions take effect several hours before a race. Blood tests were drawn on Yes It Is.