03/03/2007 1:00AM

Wait a While not exactly unbeatable

Alex Evers/Horsephotos
Wait a While

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - In theory, champion and multiple Grade 1 winner Wait a While should lay over the field when she makes her 4-year-old debut in Sunday's $100,000 Honey Fox Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

In reality, the Honey Fox came up an extremely competitive race for a Grade 3 run this early in the season. Factor in that Wait a While, carrying 123 pounds, must concede six to 11 pounds to her rivals, may encounter a less-than-firm turf course, and is unlikely to be fully cranked for this 1 1/16-mile affair, and this race becomes a bit more intriguing.

Wait a While had a stellar 3-year-old season, winning 5 of 9 starts, including two Grade 1 turf events. She won a couple of graded events on dirt as well, and Eclipse Award voters noted her versatility by crowning her champion 3-year-old filly.

Owned by Florida Panthers owner Alan Cohen, Wait a While will be pointed to major events such as the $1 million CashCall Mile at Hollywood Park in July and the $750,000 Beverly D. at Arlington in August. But, trainer Todd Pletcher has opted to start her in this spot.

"I'm just hoping for firm ground; I think she's superior on firm ground,'' Pletcher said. "Obviously, this isn't the major goal of the year, but I would expect her to run well.''

If rain moves the race to the main track, Wait a While would be a virtual lock. She won the Grade 2 Davona Dale by 14 lengths in the slop here last year.

There are several intriguing contenders in the Honey Fox. Aunt Henny is 3 for 4 on turf, including a victory in the Virginia Oaks. In the fall, she was found to have an entrapped epiglottis and throat infection, but has been training strongly at Palm Meadows this winter for Michael Matz.

"I think she looks much stronger as a 4-year-old than she did as a 3-year-old,'' Matz said.

As a 3-year-old last year, Chaibia was a Group 3 winner in France before coming to North America, where she finished fourth in the Grade 1 Garden City and second in the Grade 3 Athenia against a loose-on-the-lead Pommes Frites.

"She's a very honest filly,'' trainer Angel Penna said. "She doesn't have too much body, but she has a lot of heart, and that's more important.''

Miss Shop, winner of the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf, and Precious Kitten, winner of the Mrs. Revere last November, could also prove competitive.