02/24/2005 1:00AM

Souris looms over nine rivals


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - No horse comes into the $50,000 Spring Fever at Oaklawn Park on Saturday sharper than Souris. She is seeking her fourth straight victory, following recent scores in the $53,000 Bold Ego at Sunland Park, the $50,000 American Beauty at Oaklawn, and the $60,000 Pan Zareta at Fair Grounds.

It is an impressive resume, and one that will make her a strong favorite against nine other fillies and mares in the 5 1/2-furlong race. Other leading contenders in the race include Forest Music, Saltwater Runner, and Storm Breaking.

last raced on Feb. 5 and rallied from last to win the Pan Zareta, a six-furlong race, in a time of 1:10.20. Although there is concern about her turning back in distance Saturday, she has been effective cutting back from six furlongs to 5 1/2 before. She did it when she won the Bold Ego in a sharp 1:03.

Souris is trained by Steve Asmussen, who swept the opening weekend stakes at Oaklawn. Roman Chapa, who rode all of Asmussen's stakes winners, has the mount on Souris.

She will break from post 5 and figures to be making her bid in the late stages. Souris, a winner of 10 career races, has earned $593,406 for her owner, Nelson Bunker Hunt.

, a front-runner, also invades from Fair Grounds, where she finished fifth in the Pan Zareta. She is a Grade 3 winner over six furlongs, and shows a smart set of works for the Spring Fever. She went four furlongs in 34.80 seconds Feb. 12, and five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Feb. 19. Luis Quinonez has the mount on Forest Music for owner Michael Gill and trainer Tim Hooper.

was second to Souris in the American Beauty in her last start Jan. 22. It was a strong effort from the filly, who had last raced in June.

"She ran a good race first time out, and came back and worked good here the other day," said Bob Holthus, who trains Saltwater Runner for Lewis Lakin.

John McKee will ride Saltwater Runner, who has won 5 of 8 starts and $141,806.