The 2017 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushen has traditionally established the best two-year-old dirt runner in Japan. This year, there was a slight wrinkle as it was added as the second leg on the newly expanded Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby along with the Cattleya Sho and the Hyacinth. This year’s renewal was won by two-year-old Le Vent Se Leve, a colt with an impressive lineage that should continue to propel him on the Japan mini-circuit.
Le Vent Se Leve suffered a poor start, which is to sometimes be expected when facing a field of 14 rivals, but rallied down the stretch to catch Don Fortis, Haseno Pyro and Dark Repulsor by a length. With the win, the impressive two-year-old kept his perfect record intact and also collected 10 derby points. Thanks to his 2017 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushen performance, Le Vent Se Leve will likely head to 2018 Hyacinth on February 18th for a showdown with Ruggero, who won the 2017 Cattleya Sho. Both share the pole position on the leaderboard, but the Hyacinth offers 30 points to the winner, so a new shooter could steal the top spot.
As stated, the pedigree that this colt brings to the table is impressive. His sire is Symboli Kris S, who was a two-time Japan Horse of the Year. His mother is Maestrale, who’s own grandfather is Sunday Silence, who many will remember for winning the 1989 Kentucky Derby and 1989 Preakness Stakes before falling just short against Easy Goer in the subsequent Belmont.
Trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara oversees Le Vent Se Leve’s development, and has now won the 2016 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushen and the 2017 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushen. Hagiwara also trained Epicharis, who won the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby last season but never made the trip to Churchill Downs. The only two Japanese horses that have competed at the Kentucky Derby are Ski Captain (14th – 1995) and Lani (9th – 2016).
Le Vent Se Leve certainly seems like a horse bred with the purpose of becoming something absolutely special to Japan. A homebred talent that ventures overseas to steal an American Classic? That’s quite an intriguing proposal. He still has to get through the 2018 Hyacinth in a few short months, but a win in the 2017 Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushen is a good start.