01/28/2002 12:00AM

No surprise: Johannesburg rated first

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Breeders' Cup winners Johannesburg and Tempera, both of whom are owned by foreign connections and are wintering overseas, Monday were named as the topweights in the 2001 Experimental Free Handicap, published by The Jockey Club.

Johannesburg, owned by Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor, is the first foreign-based colt to top the Experimental list since Arazi a decade ago. Arazi, who was based in France, won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in his lone United States start at age 2, a campaign mirrored last year by the Irish-based Johannesburg.

Tempera raced exclusively in the U.S. last year, but since has been sent to Dubai, the modus operandi for horses owned by the Maktoum brothers' Godolphin Racing Inc.

The Experimental Free Handicap has been published annually since 1933, and is compiled for hypothetical races at 1 1/16 miles for 2-year-old males and 2-year-old fillies.

Both Johannesburg and Tempera won Breeders' Cup races at that exact 1 1/16-mile distance, and thus were obvious choices to head this largely symbolic list. A trio of racing secretaries representing a cross-section of the country - the New York Racing Association's Mike Lakow, Keeneland's Howard Battle, and Del Mar's Tom Robbins - compiled the list.

According to The Jockey Club, eligibility is restricted to 2-year-olds who finished among the first four in graded or other unrestricted races with an added value of at least $50,000 in the U.S There were 76 males, and 64 fillies, eligible.

Johannesburg, trained by Aidan O'Brien, was assigned 126 pounds to head the division for colts and geldings. Tempera, trained by Eoin Harty, was assigned 123 pounds to lead the filly division.

Johannesburg won six starts in Ireland, France, and Britain last year before heading to the U.S for the World Thoroughbred Championships to beat the best in this country in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park. He is expected to be nominated to the Triple Crown, but his pedigree (Hennessy out of Myth, by Ogygian) is indicative a horse who might be better suited to the English 2,000 Guineas at one mile, rather than the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby. Both races are on May 4.

Second to Johannesburg, at 124 pounds, is Siphonic, who was third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and then won the Hollywood Futurity. Repent, who was second in the Breeders' Cup and then won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, is third at 123 pounds.

Officer, who was all the rage last summer but failed as the favorite in both the Breeders' Cup and Hollywood Futurity, was assigned 121 pounds. Came Home and Publication (119 pounds), Buster's Daydream and Fonz's (117 pounds), and Saarland (116 pounds) all were within 10 pounds of the Experimental's top weight.

Tempera won three times in five starts last year. She won the Sorrento Stakes, disappointed in the Del Mar Debutante, then rebounded to take the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Her connections announced previously that she would be nominated to both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.

Habibti, who beat Tempera in the Del Mar Debutante and also won the Hollywood Starlet, is next at 121 pounds. She was seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Both Imperial Gesture and You were assigned 120 pounds. They were followed by Cashier's Dream (118 pounds), Tali'sluckybusride (117), Belterra, Smok'n Frolic, and Who Loves Aleyna (116 each), and Bella Belucci, Forest Heiress, and Take Charge Lady (115 each).