11/26/2001 12:00AM

A prophesy of bright futures


NEW YORK - There are two ways to look at the results of Saturday's Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs and the Remsen at Aqueduct:

One, Repent's victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club and Saarland's score in the Remsen serve to greatly flatter Johannesburg, since both Repent and Saarland finished behind Johannesburg in last month's Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Or two, Repent and Saarland are colts to hitch your wagon to, even more so than Johannesburg, simply by virtue of which races they won last weekend.

The first viewpoint is obvious in that if there was any question about it before, there is now no doubt that Johannesburg is a worthy 2-year-old male champion. He beat a quality field in the Juvenile, the form of which has now been strongly upheld.

The second viewpoint, while esoteric, is no less valid. That is because recent history tells us that the winners of the Remsen and Kentucky Jockey Club will go on to greater success than the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Proof can be found in examining the subsequent racing records of the 10 winners of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile from 1991 through 2000 and comparing them to the accomplishments of winners of the Remsen and Kentucky Jockey Club in the same period. (It should be noted that the books remain open on the winners of the 2000 runnings of these races.) The 10 winners of the Juvenile from 1991-2000 went on to win two Grade 1 events, four Grade 2 stakes, two Grade 3 races and one classic, the 1995 Preakness, which was won by Timber Country.

As for the 10 winners of the Remsen from 1991-2000, they went on to win four Grade 1 races, twice as many as the Juvenile winners; six Grade 2 events, two more than the Juvenile winners; two Grade 3 stakes, the same as the Juvenile winners; and four classics, three more than the Juvenile winners. The Remsen winners who eventually became classic winners as well are Thunder Gulch, winner of the 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont; Go for Gin, winner of the 1994 Kentucky Derby; and Pine Bluff, winner of the 1992 Preakness.

The Kentucky Jockey Club did not produce a classic winner during the period in question, but it did yield the winners of five Grade 1 races, three more than the Juvenile winners won; four Grade 2 winners, the same as the Juvenile; and six Grade 3 winners, four more than the Juvenile.

The Juvenile does share the lead in one comparison of these three races, and it is a dubious honor. Four Juvenile winners over this period never won again. The same number of Remsen winners failed to win again, while only one Kentucky Jockey Club winner never won again.

So, even though neither Repent nor Saarland beat especially strong fields on Saturday, their victories should be regarded as potentially powerful harbingers of coming 3-year-old form.

That is particularly true of Repent, who was about four days the best in the Kentucky Jockey Club. The runner up to Johannesburg in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, he was checked twice toward the inside going into the far turn, a spot he didn't have to be in because only moments earlier he was last and toward the outside. He continued inside around the far turn, and as a result got much slop kicked back in his face. He was weaved in and out in upper stretch before finally settling on "in," and making his move up the rail. And, through it all, Repent seemed to be only hitting his best stride when he hit the wire in front by daylight.

By contrast, Saarland's close call in the Remsen wasn't because of his rider. Indeed, Saarland enjoyed the momentum of the red-hot John Velazquez, who also won the two other graded stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday - the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Left Bank and the Grade 2 Demoiselle on Smok'n Frolic - not to mention Friday's stakes at Aqueduct, the Top Flight, on Cat Cay. No, the neck victory in the Remsen by Saarland, who was beaten less than six lengths when eighth in the Juvenile, was more dramatic than it had to be because Saarland is more of a work in progress than Repent.

It wasn't until he angled to the outside in the stretch that Saarland really leveled off in the Remsen. But when he did, he rallied like a colt who, like Repent, will appreciate whatever distance is thrown his way. It is a bit of a concern that Saarland's final time for the 1 1/8 miles was, despite a slightly faster but still moderate early pace, .71 slower than Smok'n Frolic went at the same distance in her impressive victory only 27 minutes earlier. But since Saarland is clearly still developing and obviously has the raw tools, his weakness against the clock at this point should not be that much of a problem.