04/05/2002 1:00AM

Johannesburg still Future choice

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Johannesburg continued as the favorite midway through the second of four days of wagering in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, holding sway at 9-2 as of 5:45 p.m. Eastern Friday.

Johannesburg, who is scheduled to make his seasonal debut Sunday in Ireland, was followed by Saarland (8-1), Harlan's Holiday (9-1), Repent (10-1), Medaglia d'Oro (11-1), the mutuel field (11-1), Came Home (13-1), and Essence of Dubai (15-1).

The handle in the win-only wager, which carries a 16 percent takeout, was $78,993.

Johannesburg, Repent, and Came Home are foremost among the handful of top Derby contenders scheduled to race this weekend before Pool 3 closes Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

Pool 3 is the last of three pools in the 2002 Future Wager, which is based on results of the May 4 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Favorites in the previous pools this year were the mutuel field - the "all others" option besides the 23 horses specifically listed - in Pool 1, and Siphonic, who since has been declared from Derby consideration, in Pool 2.