Will Le Vent Se Leve Rise on Japan's Road to the Derby?

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December 11th, 2017

I hope you’re ready for some international racing, because the second of Japan’s three prep races for the 2018 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) will be held on December 13th at Kawasaki Racecourse.

Although Kawasaki isn’t one of Japan’s biggest tracks, both literally and figuratively (it’s not a Japan Racing Association track and measures a bit less than six furlongs in circumference), the 1,600-meter (about one mile) Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun for two-year-olds carries local Grade 1 status and has drawn a large field for Wednesday's renewal.

In my opinion, by far the most intriguing horse entered in this year’s Nisai Yushun is #9 Le Vent Se Leve. Trained by Kiyoshi Hagiwara, Le Vent Se Leve couldn’t have been much more impressive winning his debut on August 13th at Niigata (which is roughly 7 ½ furlongs in circumference), making a huge mid-race move to take command before pulling away to win by seven lengths while stopping the clock for 1,900 meters (about nine furlongs) in 1:54.80, just one second off the track record.
His second and most recent race, the 1,600-meter Platanus Sho at Tokyo, was even more impressive. Le Vent Se Leve broke slowly and raced behind horses early on, but made a smooth four-wide rally on the turn to reach contention and pulled away steadily in the long homestretch to win by 2 ½ lengths in the time of 1:36.20, a record for a two-year-old at Tokyo.
Le Vent Se Leve’s strong finish wasn’t an illusion either, as the clock reveals he ran the final 600 meters in a rapid :35.40, or an average of :11.80 per 200 meters. The strength of the Platanus Sho was further indicated when the fourth-place finisher—Meiner Yukisubaki—came right back to finish a close third in the Cattleya Sho, Japan’s first prep race for the Kentucky Derby.

Going over the charts and replays, it’s not hard to get excited about Le Vent Se Leve’s potential, as he’s been winning effortlessly so far and could well be superior to Japan’s previous Triple Crown hopefuls Epicharis and Lani. The Nisai Yushun will mark his stiffest test to date, as he’ll be facing a deep field of thirteen challengers, but I would be pretty surprised if Le Vent Se Leve is beaten. He looks like a star in the making.

#14 Big Smoky, runner-up in Le Vent Se Leve’s debut, is back again after winning two straight races going 1,800 meters, most recently an allowance event at Kyoto in which he clocked 1:51 flat and ran the final 600 meters in a solid :36.30. #3 Dark Repulser, unbeaten in two starts sprinting at Tokyo, is another logical contender while stretching out to a route distance for the first time. #2 Hayabusa Maca O, unbeaten in three starts including a local Grade 2 event, and #8 Don Fortis, a winner of three straight races including a local Grade 3, should also draw wagering attention.

Predicting the possible odds and payoffs is difficult, but since Le Vent Se Leve might be too short a price to warrant a win bet, my strategy will be to play him on top of the trifecta and include the other above-mentioned contenders for second and third.

$2 trifecta: 9 with 2,3,8,14 with 2,3,8,14 ($24 total cost)

Good luck!