07/17/2006 11:00PM

Johannesburg is just starting

BC Juvenile winner Johannesburg is second on the freshman sire list.

LAS VEGAS - When Johannesburg won the 2001 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, it capped off an unprecedented 2-year-old season. Johannesburg won Grade 1 or Group 1 races in England, France, Ireland, and the United States.

A champion in those four countries, Johannesburg won the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes and Group 3 Norfolk Stakes in England, the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes and Group 3 Anglesey Stakes in Ireland, the Group 1 Prix Morny in France, and the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile in this country. Johannesburg raced just three more times, finishing second in the Group 3 Gladness Stakes at the Curragh before running eighth in the Kentucky Derby behind War Emblem, Proud Citizen, and Perfect Drift. That effort was not a true indication of his immense talent, and he was retired shortly after.

Based on his stellar performances on the track and his strong pedigree, Johannesburg was retired to Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., where he joined such elite stallions as Giant's Causeway, Fusaichi Pegasus, Grand Slam, Thunder Gulch, Tale of the Cat, and his own sire, Hennessy.

Johannesburg comes from a female family that has produced an inordinate number of good stallions. While his dam, Myth (by Ogygian), was just a modest winner at 2, she is an example of a well-bred filly who became much more valuable in the breeding shed because of her tail-female (dam, dam's dam, dam's granddam, etc.) line.

Myth is out of Yarn (Mr. Prospector), also just a modest winner at 3. But in addition to Myth, Yarn produced Minardi (Boundary), a champion at 2 in England and Ireland, and Tale of the Cat (Storm Cat), winner of the King's Bishop Stakes. Minardi's first crop of 3-year-olds have demonstrated the same affinity for grass as their sire. Tale of the Cat, a dual-hemisphere stallion, has been a success from the start, here and in Australia, getting 71 winners from 91 starters in his initial crop. His offspring include stakes winners Lion Heart, My Trusty Cat, Glamour Puss, Be Gentle, Falkirk, Scaredee Cat, Whoopi Cat, and Feline Story.

Yarn, who is out of Narrate (Honest Pleasure), winner of the Falls City Handicap and Princess Doreen Stakes, is a full sister to Preach, winner of the Frizette and Bourbonette stakes. Preach is the dam of Blue Grass and Fountain of Youth winner Pulpit, now a major sire.

Johannesburg's fourth dam, State (Nijinsky II), was a winner at 2 and 3, and she, too, was a wonderful broodmare, producing five stakes winners - Narrate, Region, Double Feint, Announce, and Dibs.

The key to the racing class of this family comes from Johannesburg's fifth dam, Monarchy. Monarchy, a foal of 1957, won the Arlington Lassie Stakes and finished third in the Alcibiades Stakes. She was a younger full sister to Round Table and a half-sister to Love Game, whose descendants include Tell and Turkish Trousers.

Battle continues at stud

Johannesburg is second on this year's freshman sire list, but he is right on the heels of the leader, Officer. Officer was the 2-year-old divisional leader heading into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after victories in the Champagne Stakes, Del Mar Futurity, Best Pal, and Graduation Stakes, but he tired to finish fifth in the Juvenile, beaten 5 3/4 lengths by Johannesburg. Now competing as freshmen sires, Officer once again has jumped out to an early lead with his precocious babies, but Johannesburg is quickly gaining with his later-developing offspring. Johannesburg's runners have won at five and six furlongs, but are expected to be more effective as they stretch out to between seven furlongs and 1 1/16 miles.

His nine juvenile winners are headed by Scat Daddy, who won his maiden debut for Todd Pletcher at Belmont Park in early June by 5 1/4 lengths. Scat Daddy is out of the Mr. Prospector mare Love Style, a daughter of multiple stakes winner Likeable Style, and will see action in Saratoga's 2-year-old stakes.

Johannesburg is also the sire of Johannesburg Jack, a winner in England; Rockmanella, a winner in France; Daytona, a two-length winner at Delaware Park, also for Pletcher; Johann Star, a 4 1/2-length winner at Colonial Downs; and most recently, Marcavelly, who won his first start at Belmont Park for trainer Bill Mott last Saturday by seven lengths.

While some of Johannesburg's runners have been impressive on dirt, Marcavelly is an example of what his offspring are capable of on turf. Racing close up to the pace in the six-furlong grass race, he swung out three wide around the far turn and exploded in the lane to open up daylight on his field, closing the last quarter-mile in a sizzling 23.17 seconds over a firm turf course. Many of Johannesburg's runners, such as Miss Goodnight, who finished second in a Delaware Park maiden race on July 15, will really find their best stride once they get on turf.

Johannesburg's 2-year-olds will be out in force at Saratoga. Scat Daddy, Marcavelly, and Daytona should progress from their maiden victories, and Johannesburg should have many first-time starters at the Spa, including White Diamond, a half-brother to stakes winner Iroquois Park who is trained by Graham Motion.

Racing on dirt and especially turf, runners by Johannesburg should catapult their sire to new heights as the distances increase to 1 1/16 miles.