September 21, 2023

Dieu du Vin raises a toast to Kentucky Derby hopes in Cattleya Sho

Cattleya Sho hero Dieu du Vin has taken early command of the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby
Cattleya Sho hero Dieu du Vin has taken early command of the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby (Yuki Shimono)

Since becoming the first leg on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby in 2016, the Cattleya Sho has yet to produce a proper contender. That looks set to change after undefeated Dieu du Vin obliged as the 3-2 favorite in Saturday’s renewal at a sloppy Tokyo.

If the Cattleya Sho hasn’t made much of a splash in the past three years, the metric mile allowance did play a cameo role on the Derby trail before the inauguration of the Japan Road. The 2015 Cattleya Sho winner was none other than Lani, who went on to earn his Kentucky Derby ticket in the 2016 UAE Derby (G2) and competed in all three jewels of the Triple Crown, capped by a third in the Belmont (G1).

The ensuing Cattleya Sho winners scored points on the newly minted Japan Road without appearing to have the same degree of American potential. Mont Saint Legame (2016) was arguably better than the distance-challenged Ruggero (2017) and the filly Make Happy (2018), but even he was overtaken by the next spring’s Hyacinth.

In contrast, Dieu du Vin brings substantial upside. His class will be tested further on the Japan Road before he can entertain international ambitions, but at least he has an American-style pedigree pointing to improvement with maturity and distance.

Dieu du Vin’s sire, Declaration of War, was himself best at four when capturing the 2013 Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot and Juddmonte International (G1), and finishing third in the three-way photo in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). The War Front stallion has already been in the headlines in early November thanks to his Australian-bred sons Warning and Vow and Declare, who handed him a rapid-fire Victoria Derby (G1)/Melbourne Cup (G1) double at Flemington.

Dieu du Vin’s dam, the Tapit mare Jealous Cat, is a full sister to 2013 Florida Oaks (G3) diva Tapicat. Second dam Zealous Cat is a Storm Cat half-sister to Grade 1-winning sprinter Pohave. Zealous Cat is also closely related to 1999 Breeders’ Cup Classic upsetter Cat Thief. Both are by Storm Cat and out of full sisters – Cat Thief was produced by multiple Grade 3 queen Train Robbery and Zealous Cat is out of Trail Robbery. Both “Robbery” mares are daughters of Alydar and millionaire Track Robbery, the champion older mare of 1982.

Moreover, Dieu du Vin brandishes the Rasmussen Factor of inbreeding to a superior female, in this case Ruby Slippers. She appears in the top quadrant of the pedigree via War Front (himself out of a mare by Rubiano, Ruby Slippers’ son by Fappiano) and the bottom portion via Tapit (whose dam, Tap Your Heels, is a three-quarter sister to Rubiano by Unbridled).

Dieu du Vin is promising to live up to his pedigree. Trained by Yokihiro Kato for Three H. Racing Co. Ltd., the bay debuted as the even-money choice in an October 26 newcomers’ race at this track and trip. Dieu du Vin did his best work late to swamp Danon Pharaoh, a next-out winner who re-opposed here. But Dieu du Vin prevailed again in convincing fashion, in a sea of slop.

Picking up Frankie Dettori for this first test against winners, Dieu du Vin bided his time off the pace. The speedy Aurora Tesoro, a Kentucky-bred by Malibu Moon, led the way from Daimei Corrida (by Eskendereya). Danon Pharaoh might have been compromised by post 16 or else he likely would have mixed it up early too. Instead, the American Pharoah colt was relegated to a chasing position.

Dieu du Vin deftly split foes as he began to improve entering the far turn, and swinging into the stretch, he was full of run in the clear. It took him some time to wind up, but Dettori was judicious in his encouragement, and the response was forthcoming. Striking the front inside the final sixteenth, he clocked his final 600 meters in 36.6 to finish in 1:36.2.

Shonan Mario recorded the fastest final split in :36.1 to snatch second, beaten only three-quarters of a length. Yet it could be significant that Dettori was just hand-riding Dieu du Vin with victory in the bag. Daimei Corrida bested Aurora Tesoro for third, and Danon Pharaoh deserves credit for not shirking his task in an honest fifth. In better circumstances, Danon Pharaoh is entitled to go closer, and we could hear more from him on the Japan Road.

Dieu du Vin is a legitimate pro-tem leader, however, with 10 points on the Japan scoreboard. Shonan Mario (4 points), Daimei Corrida (2 points) and Aurora Tesoro (1 point) have also opened their accounts.

The upcoming races are all worth progressively more, and sure to attract stronger competition. The December 18 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun at Kawasaki offers points on a 20-8-4-2 scale, and the early 2020 scoring events will be decisive – the Hyacinth S. (30-12-6-3) back at Tokyo in February and the concluding Fukuryu (40-16-8-4) at Nakayama.