07/31/2002 11:00PM

Johannesburg is retired


Johannesburg, the winner of the 2001 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the world's highest rated 2-year-old on the International Classification, has been retired.

The decision to end the career of the Kentucky-bred son of Hennessy was made by Michael Tabor and John Magnier less than six weeks after his ninth-place finish in the 6-furlong Golden Jubilee Stakes. That Royal Ascot contest had been Johannesburg's first start since his odyssey to Churchill Downs, where he had finished a dull eighth in the Kentucky Derby after a winter of speculation about the possibility of his being the first foreign-trained winner of the Run for the Roses.

That speculation reached a fever pitch after he had annihilated America's best 2-year-olds in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Victory at Belmont Park had come on the heels of Group 1 tallies in Ireland's Phoenix Stakes, France's Prix Morny and England's Middle Park Stakes that had made him the toast of the European juvenile set.

As as a son of Hennessy out of a mare by Ogygian, Johannesburg was bred for dirt but the chances of his staying the 1 1/4 miles of the Kentucky Derby were always in doubt. Given an insufficient one-race preparation for the Derby, Johannesburg never put himself into the race.

Aidan O'Brien explained his juvenile champion's failed 3-year-old campaign.

"Unfortunately we made the mistake of aiming Johannesburg at the Kentucky Derby," the Irish trainer said. "The combination of training him on bad ground in our wet spring and trying to stretch his stamina too far just bottomed him out. However, he was an exceptional 2-year-old and achieved more in one season than most horses do in their entire careers. He had brilliant speed, was always very sound and had a great attitude."

Johannesburg scored seven victories from ten lifetime starts for earnings of $!,017,005. He will stand alongside his sire Hennessy at Ashford Stud in Kentucky.