March 28, 2023

Le Vent Se Leve tops Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun on Japan Road to Kentucky Derby

Wednesday’s Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun at Kawasaki, Japan’s premier dirt race for juveniles and now a scoring race on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, has accordingly attracted several smart prospects among the 14-horse field. But the hottest of them all may be Le Vent Se Leve, a Symboli Kris S colt who’s captured both of his starts in smashing style.

From the same barn as Epicharis, the leading scorer on the inaugural Japan Road in 2017, the Kiyoshi Hagiwara trainee stacks up from a variety of perspectives. His seven-length tour de force in a Niigata newcomers’ event was one for visual handicappers to savor. Between sustaining an early move in the about nine-furlong test and displaying a piston-like action, Le Vent Se Leve had the look of a class act.

Clock watchers and form enthusiasts could latch onto a more objective metric in his recent Tokyo allowance victory. Le Vent Se Leve was hand-ridden by Mirco Demuro to a juvenile track-record 1:36.20 for the metric mile, beating Viel Spass (subsequently second to Don Fortis) and Meiner Yukitsubaki (later a flying third to Ruggiero in the opening scoring race, the Cattleya Sho).

Drawn in post 9 at Kawasaki, Le Vent Se Leve may propel himself into the Derby picture with another dynamic performance for Demuro.

Fellow unbeaten Hayabusa Maca O made an immediate impression by distancing his foes in a firsters’ race at Sapporo. The son of Sinister Minister followed up by breaking the juvenile course record for about seven furlongs at Kyoto, where he dispatched Orostachys by four front-running lengths in the slop. Hayabusa Maca O cut it much closer in his stakes debut in the Hyogo Junior Grand Prix at Sonoda, holding on by a neck. Christophe Lemaire will be back aboard the speedy type as he breaks from post 2.

Don Fortis, a closing third in his unveiling, has gone on a tear since. The Henny Hughes colt rallied to break his maiden by three lengths at Chukyo, and scored by the same margin in a Hanshin allowance over Orostachys, who thereby gives a collateral piece of form with Hayabusa Maca O. Stretching out to about nine furlongs for the Hokkaido Nisai Yushun at Mombetsu, Don Fortis launched a strong circling move on the far turn and prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths from Viel Spass. He keeps Yutaka Take in the saddle.

Dark Repulser, two-for-two at Tokyo with Keita Tosaki, won his debut on the front end but proved his tactical versatility next time in an allowance. While he doesn’t boast the flashy margins of the principal trio, Dark Repulser has no shortage of pedigree appeal as a Hard Spun half-brother to past Japanese dirt star Espoir City.

Big Smoky also has a pedigree angle, being by King Kamehameha and out of multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Smok’n Frolic, and thus a half to Canadian champion Hunters Bay. Best of the rest behind Le Vent Se Leve in their mutual debut, Big Smoky was second again before discovering the winner’s circle handsomely at Hanshin. He quickly made it two in a row in a Kyoto allowance, prevailing by just a half-length but setting the juvenile record for about nine furlongs.

Those five are all registered as Japan Racing Association horses, the elite of the nation’s Thoroughbred population. They can compete here at Kawasaki, a track on the local government circuit under the National Association of Racing, because the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun is an “exchange race” open to JRA and NRA horses alike.

The remaining nine runners are not JRA horses, so they’ll face a higher caliber of opponent in this spot. The relative class level is reflected by the fact that three of them have already been beaten by re-opposing JRA rivals – Soy Cowboy was third to Hayabusa Maca O at Sonoda, and Don Fortis has accounted for Southern Vigorous (third) and Happy Grin (sixth) at Mombetsu. Most of the others in this category look pretty exposed too, namely Tosen Bull, Damonde, Dombey, and Mr Bach.

Two of the NAR horses, however, have more upside. The Pyro colt Haseno Pyro, who lost a photo in his first try, has reeled off three in a row, and Riko Walther (by Deep Impact’s brother Black Tide) is himself two-for-three. Both are winners at this track.

The Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun has the same points structure as the Cattleya Sho (10-4-2-1), leaving the concluding Hyacinth back at Tokyo in February as the most lucrative (30-12-6-3) on the Japan Road. All three of the Japanese scoring races are conducted at a metric mile.