Padua Stables' Vindication met new jockey Jerry Bailey for the first time Saturday and the pair teamed up for a bullet five-furlong work over Santa Anita's fast main track.
In company with stablemate Oration, the son of 1977 Triple Crown hero Seattle Slew posted a final time of :58 2/5, handily, while his stablemate was clocked in :58 3/5, also handily.
"He was supposed to go in a minute, but what are you gonna do?" trainer Bob Baffert said. "(Vindication) got a little eager with him early, but he relaxed good and went on with it OK.
"I just wanted Jerry to get a feel of him and then he can figure it out."
As Vindication and Bailey stepped onto the track right after the break, the loose horse siren sounded and Baffert joked, "They're sounding the alarm, 'Vindication's here.'"
Vindication and Oration, with Dana Barnes aboard, hooked up along the rail at about the three-quarter pole. With Vindication on the outside, the pair was timed in :12 for the first eighth of a mile by Baffert.
The workmates rounded the bend together and picked it up a notch down the lane before Vindication pulled away in the last few yards to cross the finish line about a length in front. Baffert clocked Vindication galloping an the extra furlong in :12.
"The thing about Vindication is that he's never been beaten, but he's never been tested," Baffert said. "He's still just trying to figure it all out."
Bailey, who has won two Kentucky Derbys – in 1993 on Sea Hero and in 1996 aboard Grindstone – was pleased with the effort Vindication turned in on Saturday.
"Oh is that who that horse was?" Bailey joked after the work when asked about his impression of the probable 2-year-old champion. "I was really impressed him. At about the three-quarter pole he got a little eager and really wanted to get on with it, but he relaxed nicely after that and went very well. I hope we can get lucky together."
When asked about how he felt being in the hot seat, replacing Mike Smith – who guided Vindication to an undefeated season in 2002 – Bailey was philosophical.
"It's very flattering (being selected to ride Vindication) but it's also hard," Bailey said. "Mike and I are great friends and he's a class 'A' rider, but in this business it happens. It's happened to me before, it's happened to him before. It's happened to all of us. But we've got a long way to go. In the past I've had four or five choices in January and then had nothing in May."