08/09/2001 11:00PM

O'Brien goes for four-peat


Aidan O'Brien and Saeed bin Suroor hold most of the aces in a trio of Group 1 races Sunday in Ireland, Germany, and France.

O'Brien sends out Europe's highest rated juvenile, Johannesburg, in the six-furlong Phoenix Stakes at Leopardstown in Dublin. O'Brien won the race the last three years with Lavery, Fasliyev, and Minardi when it was known as the Heinz 57 Phoenix Stakes. The first Group 1 race of the year for 2-year-olds has had its longtime sponsor replaced by Independent Waterford Wedgewood.

Johannesburg fully deserves his Timeform rating of 112p. Johannesburg, a colt who looked so good winning the five-furlong Group 3 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, was even more impressive when taking the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes at six furlongs, 63 yards at the Curragh on July 14. With Michael Kinane aboard, he will be a short-priced favorite to beat stablemate and four-length Anglesey runner-up Wiseman's Ferry again. The Dermot Weld-trained filly Agnetha, a listed winner last time out, should be in the hunt.

Mutafaweq will attempt to give Godolphin its second German Group 1 prize in two weeks in the 1 1/2-mile Grosser Kolner Pokal at Cologne, but he faces a tougher task than did Kutub in last Sunday's Bayerisches Zuchtrennen.

Mutafaweq, the Coronation Cup winner, was third, 2 1/2 lengths behind Sandmason in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes on June 22 when he gave the winner five pounds. Mutafaweq, to be ridden by Frankie Dettori, faces a strong challenge from Germany's top-rated 3-year-old, Sabiango, an Acatenanago colt who beat subsequent German Derby winner Boreal in a Group 2 in June.

The Peter Schiergen-trained Boreal is also in the lineup and both 3-year-olds will receive a whopping 13 pounds on the scale from Mutafaweq as well as from Anzillero, recent winner of the 1 1/2-mile Group 1 Deutschland-Preis.

Foreign-trained invaders have captured three of the four group races run at Deauville so far this month, and it is difficult to see the Pascal Bary-trained Danger Over turning back his eight foreign rivals in the Prix Maurice de Gheest.

Once again, O'Brien seems to have the answer to this 6-1/2-furlong puzzle. He will saddle King Charlemagne, winner of Group 3 events at seven furlongs in both of his 2001 starts, along with Minardi, the European juvenile champion who was fourth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and third in the Irish 2000.

Minardi will appreciate the cut back in distance and is a narrow choice over Godolphin's Three Points and leading German sprinter Tertullian.