02/18/2011 4:22PM

Shotgun Gulch looks strong in Spring Fever at Oaklawn

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Shotgun Gulch will be among the favorites for Sunday's Spring Fever Stakes at Oaklawn.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – A pair of fillies who last raced in Southern California will meet in Arkansas on Sunday in the $60,000 Spring Fever at Oaklawn Park. Shotgun Gulch is returning to the region following a third-place finish in the Grade 1 La Brea at Santa Anita. Honey Bunch, meanwhile, has come to run on natural dirt after racing on synthetic surfaces last year at Hollywood Park.

The Spring Fever, for fillies and mares at 5 1/2 furlongs, also drew Stephanie Got Even, who will seek her sixth consecutive win after taking last month’s $50,000 American Beauty at Oaklawn.

Shotgun Gulch is a multiple stakes winner in the Southwest, with her latest score coming in the $115,000 Oklahoma Classics Filly and Mare Sprint at Remington Park on Oct. 22. She made her way to Santa Anita at the end of December for the $250,000 La Brea.

“I always wanted to go to California and I always wanted to run in a Grade 1, so we just took a shot,” said C.R. Trout, who bred, owns, and trains Shotgun Gulch. “She had been training really good, and we were through at Remington Park.”

Shotgun Gulch rallied from next to last to finish third to Switch, one of the nation’s top female sprinters. Shotgun Gulch finished five lengths back of the winner, at odds of 64-1, and Trout noted she did not have a clean trip. Shotgun Gulch was in tight into the stretch and had to check.

“We might have got second,” he said. “Of course, we couldn’t outrun Switch, but we wanted some black type and we were fortunate to get it.”

Shotgun Gulch has since been settled in at Oaklawn.

“You just couldn’t ask her to be any better,” said Trout, who has given the mount to Luis Quinonez.

Honey Bunch came to Oaklawn earlier this month aboard a flight that also brought top 3-year-old J P’s Gusto to town for the Arkansas Derby series. Both horses were transferred to the care of Joe Petalino.

Honey Bunch will be making her first start since winning a maiden special weight at Hollywood Park in her fourth career start June 20. She was sent to Oaklawn because her connections feel she will be a better filly on dirt, said Steve Bajer, racing manager for owner John Waken. Honey Bunch breezed over Oaklawn’s surface Monday.

“She really worked good,” said Petalino, who has given the mount to Jon Court.