01/04/2007 12:00AM

Big-fig winner Johannesburg Star returns


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Johannesburg Star will try to prove he is not a one-hit wonder while attempting to join the Triple Crown trail when he meets seven rivals in Saturday's $65,000 Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct.

The Count Fleet, run at a mile and 70 yards over the inner track, has produced classic winners Prairie Bayou and Smarty Jones.

After four sub-par efforts to begin his career, Johannesburg Star led gate to wire to win a mile and 70-yard maiden race by 9 1/2 lengths on Dec. 9. He earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure, the third-highest figure earned by a 2-year-old in 2006, behind only Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Street Sense (108) and Santa Anita maiden winner Notional (105).

The victory prompted someone to offer owner Bisnath Parboo $2 million for Johannesburg Star, an offer that Parboo turned down. Parboo's son, Shivananda Parbhoo, bought the horse for $105,000 for his father.

"I'm in the game for the game, I'm not in the game for the money," Shivananda Parbhoo, 41, said.

"A once-in-a-lifetime gift," Bisnath Parboo, 67, said. "Hopefully, it works out."

For things to work out Saturday, Johannesburg Star will have to prove either he can handle some early pace pressure or that he can come from off the pace. There are some other early-speed types in the Count Fleet, such as Believeinmenow and Johnny Z. Johnny Z. was supplemented to the race by owner Joseph Besecker.

"I'm not concerned about somebody hooking him," Joe Parker, trainer of Johannesburg Star, said. "I'm just hoping he duplicates the same race he ran last time. If he does, they all got me to beat."

C.C. Lopez will ride Johannesburg Star from post 4.

No Reply and Sir Whimsey look like the main threats to Johannesburg Star. No Reply, a son of Deputy Commander owned by Darley Stable and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, overcame a wide trip to win an off-the-turf maiden race by 8o1/2 lengths on the inner track on Dec. 1. He has shown marked improvement in two starts with blinkers.

Sir Whimsey, a son of Jump Start, beat Johannesburg Star in a very gutty effort on Nov. 18. After putting away a stubborn Johannesburg Star in the stretch, Sir Whimsey was passed by Perfect Vow in deep stretch but came back and nipped him at the wire. Sir Whimsey comes off a second-place finish behind a loose-on-the-lead Believeinmenow in a first-level allowance race on Dec. 6.

Summer Doldrums, Pink Viper and Here to Please complete the field.