06/18/2007 11:00PM

Johannesburgs best on turf


LAS VEGAS - Johannesburg, who was undefeated in seven starts at 2, had an unprecedented year in 2001, winning four Group or Grade 1 stakes in four different countries (England, France, Ireland, and the United States) and was named 2-year-old champion in those four countries. The sudden burst of acceleration he showed to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile - his first race on dirt and running counterclockwise - was the exclamation point to an unparalleled juvenile campaign.

Quick out of the gate as a freshman sire last year, his first crop has thus far yielded eight stakes winners, and his leading earner is the precocious Scat Daddy, who won the Sanford and Champagne stakes and was second in the Hopeful Stakes. His other stakes winners include Teuflesberg, Baroness Thatcher, Marcavelly, Hamoody, Rabatash, and Fernando Po.

With victories in stakes races such as the Florida Derby, Champagne, Fountain of Youth, Southwest, Santa Ysabel, and Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup, Johannesburg's runners have clearly showed ability on dirt, but as I suspected, they have a decided preference for grass.

In winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Johannesburg proved he could handle dirt, like his sire, Hennessy, who was brilliant at 2, the only year he raced. Hennessy won 4 of 9 starts, including the Hopeful, Sapling, and Hollywood Juvenile Championship stakes and finished second by a neck to Unbridled's Song in the 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Hennessy is a pronounced speed influence, and while his runners have been spectacularly fast on dirt - such as Henny Hughes, Madcap Masquerade, Harmony Lodge, Cactus Ridge, Heckle, and Roll Hennessy Roll - he also gets many stakes winners on turf. These grass runners include Grand Armee, a champion in Australia; Half Hennessy, a Grade 1 winner in Australia; Silver Tree, Toasted, Orchard Park, and of course, Johannesburg. Turf prowess comes naturally to this sire line (Hennessy-Storm Cat-Storm Bird-Northern Dancer), and young runners by Johannesburg are proving the point.

Marcavelly was most impressive winning his career debut at 2, a six-furlong maiden race on turf - which was reminiscent of the explosive 2-year-old debut of Artie Schiller in 2003, who also won his first race on turf with an explosive rally at six furlongs on grass. (Marcavelly and Artie Schiller are closely related. Marcavelly is by Johannesburg out of the Majestic Light mare Dark Jewel, while Artie Schiller is by El Prado out of Dark Jewel's full sister, the multiple Grade 1 stakes winner Hidden Light.) Marcavelly's decisive victory in the recent Hill Prince Stakes makes him this year's best 3-year-old colt at one mile on firm turf.

Teuflesberg, who has danced many dances at 2 and especially this year at 3, has, at times, shown flashes of brilliance. He gave Scat Daddy fits finishing a game second in the Sanford Stakes last year, won the Southwest Stakes, and finished third in the Lecomte and Rebel stakes. Cutting back in distance, he ran the best race of his career in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

But Teuflesberg, Scat Daddy, and Baroness Thatcher may be best on turf.

In addition to the grass influence of his sire, Teuflesberg has other sources of turf in his pedigree that are not readily apparent.

Teuflesberg has two names in his pedigree - Devil's Bag and Spectacular Bid - that were champions on dirt, but who indisputably became far superior sires of grass runners. The high quality shown by Teuflesberg also can be attributed to the fact he is yet another example of the Rasmussen Factor, as he is exquisitely inbred 4x4 to the influential broodmare State through her daughters, the half-siblings Narrate and Border. Border is a full sister to Double Feint, one of Spectacular Bid's major stakes winners on grass.

Just being by Johannesburg makes Scat Daddy a candidate to perform well on grass, but Scat Daddy has as his damsire the versatile Mr. Prospector (whose offspring excelled on all surfaces), and his second damsire is the venerable Nijinsky II, one of Northern Dancer's best sons and a strong turf influence.

Baroness Thatcher also should thrive if given the opportunity on turf. She is out of a Gulch mare from a high-class female family, and Gulch also is a versatile stallion, getting high-quality stakes winners on turf as well as dirt. Among Gulch's best turf runners are multiple Group 1 winner Nayef; Eagle Cafe, a Group 1 winner on dirt and turf in Japan; English 1000 Guineas winner Harayir; Gulch Approval, Snowdrops, and Mariensky. Baroness Thatcher has many turf influences up and down her pedigree, including In Reality (Intentionally) and Key to the Mint (Graustark).

Last Sunday at Hollywood Park, Ingrid the Gambler, who was second in her only two starts - on dirt at Santa Anita and on the Cushion Track at Hollywood - was at her best in her first turf effort, displaying speed and a quick turn of foot to win a six-furlong maiden race, paying $10.40.

Runners by Johannesburg should not be ignored on dirt as they will continue to win on that surface, but they should be bet with confidence when placed on turf, which will result in profitable paydays.