Triple Crown champion American Pharoah is off to a hot start as a stallion, siring a Breeders’ Cup winner from his first crop of foals. Whether he’ll add a Kentucky Derby (G1) winner to his stud resume remains to be seen, but when his first foals turn three years old next year, there’s a good chance Danon Pharaoh will be well on his way to the 2020 Kentucky Derby.

The 2019-20 Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby kicks off with the November 23 Cattleya Sho at Tokyo Racecourse, a 1,600-meter allowance race in which Danon Pharaoh looms a major contender. With 17 Derby qualification points on the line, including 10 points to the winner, the Cattleya Sho is the first stepping stone toward more valuable prep races on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Danon Pharaoh has shown plenty of potential in his first two starts. A son of 2010 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) winner Crisp, Danon Pharaoh finished second in his debut over the same track and distance as the Cattleya Sho, setting the pace before weakening slightly to finish 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner. Subsequently, the colt showed staying power to break his maiden in a similar race on November 10, finishing fast after setting the pace to win comfortably in 1:38.50.

Danon Pharaoh would likely be favored in the Cattleya Sho if not for the presence of Dieu du Vin. A son of Declaration of War out of the Tapit mare Zealous Cat, Dieu du Vin defeated Danon Pharaoh in their mutual debut at Tokyo, sprinting home to win in the quick time of 1:37. For the Cattleya Sho, internationally acclaimed jockey Frankie Dettori has accepted the mount, making Dieu du Vin a serious threat to defeat Danon Pharaoh once again.

Three fillies have been entered in the Cattleya Sho, including Clepat, a daughter of American Pharoah. After falling to score in her first two starts, the third time proved to be the charm for Clepat, who broke through with a victory traveling 1,800 meters at Hanshin on September 15.

Serein, a daughter of Uncle Mo out of the Grade 1-winning mare Tiz Miz Sue, might be the more formidable female. A debut winner at Sapporo, Serein faced males in the 1,600-meter Platanus Sho at Tokyo last month and finished second in 1:38.30. Lovely Angel, a winner by seven lengths over this course and distance on October 21, is the final filly in the field.

Maiden winners American Baby (sired by Bernardini), Aurora Tesoro (by Malibu Moon), Daimei Corrida (by Eskendereya), and Shonan Mario (by Toby’s Corner) are all sons of accomplished U.S. racehorses. Aster Marimba, a grandson of 1989 Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence, likewise has a pedigree filled with American influences. A decisive maiden winner at Niigata, Aster Marimba will be guided by world-renowned jockey Ryan Moore.

Completing the field are Cosmo Imperium, Halbmond, Kyoei Go, Matthias, Taiki Lux, and Tosen Timing.

The Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby continues with the December 18 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun, the February 16 Hyacinth Stakes, and the March 29 Fukuyru Stakes.