Fresh off a coup at the Breeders’ Cup, leading freshman sire American Pharoah could make a splash on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby with a pair of entrants in Saturday’s Cattleya Sho. The metric mile test at Tokyo – the opening scoring race for prospective Derby hopefuls in Japan with a 10-4-2-1 points structure – fittingly has several American angles.
Aside from Pharoah progeny Danon Pharaoh and Clepat, impressive debut winners Dieu du Vin and American Baby (by Bernardini) have U.S. pedigrees, and Kentucky-breds Aurora Tesoro and Serein also rate as key contenders among a 16-horse field.
Dieu du Vin, by hot sire Declaration of War and out of a Tapit mare, mowed down Danon Pharaoh in a newcomers’ event over this course and distance. In that October 26 affair, Danon Pharaoh did well to repel his nearest challenger in a stretch tussle, only to have Dieu du Vin swoop late to conquer. Frankie Dettori picks up the mount on the promising Dieu du Vin, who is much better drawn than Danon Pharaoh in their rematch. The Yukihiro Kato pupil has landed in post 3, while Danon Pharaoh is on the far outside post 16.
Danon Pharaoh’s dam, Grade 1 winner Crisp, was sold for $350,000 while carrying him at Keeneland November in 2016. So far he’s shown his sire’s early speed in his two starts. Unable to withstand Dieu du Vin first time out, Danon Pharaoh held sway as the even-money favorite here November 3. Although the margin of victory was 1 1/4 lengths from the runner-up, there was a long gap back to third.
American Pharoah’s other chance is the filly Clepat, who like Danon Pharaoh is trained by Yoshito Yahagi. The $310,000 Keeneland September yearling was seventh in a turf newcomers’ race at Sapporo, and nearly wired her dirt debut at the same venue, before breaking through with off-the-pace tactics at Hanshin.
American Baby’s name alludes to the fact that he was imported in utero. His dam, the Pioneerof the Nile mare Nile Queen, sold for $525,000 while in foal to Bernardini at the 2016 Keeneland November Sale, the same year her half-brother Exaggerator racked up victories in the Preakness (G1), Haskell (G1), and Santa Anita Derby (G1).
The word was out on American Baby ahead of a newcomers’ event over this track and trip November 2. Dispatched as the odds-on favorite, he romped by five despite looking a shade green. Now he gets Mirco Demuro.
Aurora Tesoro took five starts to break his maiden, but his first four came on turf. The son of Malibu Moon was a revelation on the switch to the Tokyo dirt, drawing off by seven here on October 5. A $450,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling purchase, the chestnut is bred on a similar cross to California Chrome, being out of a Not for Love mare.
Serein, a daughter of Uncle Mo and Grade 1-winning millionaire Tiz Miz Sue, was ticketed for Japan after commanding $500,000 at Keeneland September. Justifying even-money favoritism against the boys at Sapporo in July, the Mikio Matsunaga pupil was overturned at odds-on in an October 15 allowance (the Platanus Sho) here. Considering she’d packed on 20 kilograms (about 44 pounds) in the interim, Serein might strip fitter on Saturday.
Aster Marimba picks up Ryan Moore after staying on strongly in a two-length maiden score at Niigata. By Neo Universe and out of a More Than Ready mare, Aster Marimba was previously a closing second in his unveiling at Kyoto. Both starts have come at about nine furlongs on off tracks.
Taiki Lux, sixth on a yielding Nakayama turf first out, was a dominant maiden winner at this track and trip in his follow-up. Daimei Corrida, sired by Eskendereya in his first season in Japan, is another who turned over a new leaf on dirt to upset a Kyoto maiden at 22-1. As an even bigger 36-1 shot in a Tokyo allowance (the Oxalis Sho), Daimei Corrida again outperformed his odds in second.
Kyoei Go, from the first crop of Japanese champion Kizuna, likewise improved when moving from turf to dirt to break his maiden by four at Nakayama. Cosmo Imperium is eligible to have a similar turnaround, as a son of Japanese champion dirt horse Transcend. But he’ll need to after going one-for-five on turf, including a 10th in the Sapporo Nisai (G3) when last seen August 31.
Matthias prevailed in a Kyoto newcomers’ event November 2, while Shonan Mario, by 2011 Wood Memorial (G1) hero Toby’s Corner, finally checked the maiden box at Niigata in his fourth attempt. Tosen Timing, unplaced in his first two on dirt, stunned a course-and-distance maiden at 65-1 last out. The Casino Drive filly Lovely Angel also earned her breakthrough here recently, and fellow Tokyo maiden winner Halbmond exits a non-threatening 11th in the Oxalis Sho.
Here’s the line-up courtesy of japanracing.jp, updated following the draw and reflecting odds just after midnight local time Saturday.