01/28/2010 1:00AM

Sweet Repent tends to play it close

Jim Lisa
Amazing (right), here winning the '08 Elmer Heubeck Distaff, was beaten just a nose by Sweet Repent in the Stage Door Betty. The two will face off again on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer David Braddy always thought Sweet Repent was a good horse. It just took her a little longer to prove it than he would have hoped.

On Saturday, Sweet Repent will try to enhance her rapidly growing reputation when she seeks her fifth straight victory in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park. The 1 1/8-mile race is for Florida-bred and California-bred fillies and mares.

The Florida-bred Sweet Repent won 2 of 4 starts at 2 but really didn't come into her own until the latter third of 2009, when she rolled off four consecutive wins, all at Calder. Three of them came in stakes, including the Grade 3 Stage Door Betty Handicap in her 3-year-old finale, and three were heart-stopping nose decisions.

"I always thought she was one of the better fillies at Calder as a 2-year-old, but there just weren't a lot of opportunities for her since she wasn't eligible for the Stallion Series," said Braddy. "She was struggling with her feet when I ran her here in the Old Hat and over at Tampa last winter, so we just made the decision to kick her out for a while, and I think that did her more good than anything."

Sweet Repent will be rematched against some of her most recent victims in the 1 1/8-mile Distaff, including Amazing, whom she ran down in the final stride in the Stage Door Betty.

"There are some nice fillies in this field, some we just narrowly beat, so this one could go either way, although I'm hoping there will be a little more pace than in that last race," said Braddy. "Hopefully, Jessica Is Back and Amazing will be out in front and we can trip out right behind them. That's what I'm thinking, anyway, although things never seem to work out the way you think."

Amazing, also a Florida-bred, ran the race of her life when she was out-nodded making her graded stakes debut in the Stage Door Betty. Amazing, who won the 2008 Elmer Heubeck Distaff at Calder, will try her luck in the Distaff for the second consecutive winter, having finished seventh after failing to show her best speed a year ago at Santa Anita.

Florida-bred Jessica Is Back proved no match for Sweet Repent in the 2009 Elmer Heubeck on Nov. 14, but rebounded with an easy 5 3/4-length allowance win three weeks later and has now posted triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in each of her last three starts.

Florida-bred Christmas Ship has traveled cross-country from her Santa Anita base to take on the locals for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. In her only previous trip to south Florida, Christmas Ship finished third, beaten three lengths by Amazing in the 2008 Heubeck.

Unforgotten has also shipped in for another run at the Sunshine Millions Distaff, traveling from the Fair Grounds, where she finished second in the Daily Racing Form Distaff on Dec. 19. Unforgotten finished a late-running third behind Leah's Secret in this event one year earlier.