02/18/2010 12:00AM

Palanka City back after long layoff

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - There might be value to be had Saturday in the $60,000 Spring Fever at Oaklawn, with two of the major players in the 5 1/2-furlong race for fillies and mares returning from layoffs of significant length. Palanka City, a Grade 3 winner, will be making her first start since March, while Sweet Relish, who has been working lights-out at Oaklawn, has not seen action since September. One Smokin' Lady, who is stakes-placed this meet at Oaklawn, and Sheltered, who invades from Fair Grounds, are among those that could take advantage of the situation. They are part of a six-horse field for the Spring Fever, which will share a card with the rescheduled Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest.

Palanka City should vie for favoritism despite the layoff. She is the class of the field as a graded winner of close to $300,000, and in her final prep for her return, she worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.80 seconds here Feb. 11.

"She's ready to go," said Scott Becker, who trains Palanka City.

Palanka City had been pointed to the $50,000 American Beauty here Jan. 16, but missed a work during a week when five days of training were lost to freezing temperatures. The race Saturday will be her first since winning the $50,000 Carousel at Oaklawn on March 28.

"She had an injury to her cannon bone," Becker said. "We missed the first race here just because of the weather conditions at Oaklawn. We couldn't go into the American Beauty, unfortunately. But she's been ready to go."

Chris Emigh has the mount on Palanka City.

Sweet Relish has turned nothing but bullets in preparation for her first start since finishing fourth in the $75,000 Prairie Meadows Oaks on Sept. 19.

"Her race wasn't up to snuff, so we gave her a little break," said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Sweet Relish. "We want to have a good 4-year-old year."

Sweet Relish is cutting back to one turn for her return, which was a successful pattern for her last spring when she made her first start in more than five months in a local allowance.

"She won over the track at Oaklawn, at a similar sprint distance," noted Von Hemel.

Sweet Relish also earned her career-best Beyer Speed Figure sprinting, when she was given a 90 for winning the $100,000 Cinemine at Lone Star Park last May. Cliff Berry has the mount Saturday.