Champion Vindication Retired to Hill 'n' Dale in Kentucky

With trainer Bob Baffert reporting that Vindication's training schedule is just too tight to make the Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup Classic, Powered by Dodge (gr. I), Satish and Anne Sanan's Padua Stables announced the early retirement of the unbeaten 2-year-old champion male of 2002.

"Ten weeks is just not enough time for a horse coming off this kind of injury," Baffert said about the dilemma caused by the Seattle Slew colt's suspensory problem. "The best-case scenario would have given him time for just one prep race before the Breeders' Cup, and that's not enough. I am truly disappointed. Vindication was the most exciting 2-year-old I have trained."

Vindication, whose training was compromised because of an injury to his left front suspensory that first surfaced in February, is expected to arrive at John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Farm near Lexington prior to the Keeneland September yearling sale. Hill 'n' Dale bought a portion of the breeding rights in Vindication last December from Padua. The exact price was not disclosed, but Sikura said at the time of the purchase that the colt was valued "well in excess of $20 million." Contractual clauses put his potential value closer to $30 million.

Satish Sanan expressed both disappointment and enthusiasm in making the announcement. "We have always held Vindication in the highest regard, and he never once let us down," Sanan said. "His comeback from injury has been nothing less than remarkable, and he continues to go to the racetrack with zest and verve. But we have really run out of time to achieve our ultimate goal, which has always been the Breeders' Cup Classic. Anything less than that would be an insult to our horse, who has already proven himself a champion. Our next level with Vindication entails getting him the best book of mares possible, so he can show his superiority in the breeding shed."

Sikura echoed Sanan's sentiment, likening Vindication to some of the greatest of all time. "Vindication is that rarest of horses, in the mold of Danzig and Raise a Native, unbeaten and untested on the racetrack, and beautifully bred to boot."

Bred by Virginia Kraft Payson's Payson Stud, Vindication was purchased by Padua at the 2001 Saratoga yearling sale for $2,150,000. He started off by winning both a maiden and optional claimer at Del Mar, then took the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes (gr. III) at Turfway Park before winning the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) in what proved to be his final start. He was voted an Eclipse Award and assigned top weight of 126 pounds on the Experimental Free Handicap for males.

Taking exception to Vindication's championship was Daniel Borislow, whose colt Toccet finished unplaced in the Juvenile, but then closed out the season with three consecutive graded stakes wins, including a score in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) in December. Toccet earlier had won the Champagne Stakes (gr. I), and Borislow felt his colt's two grade I wins more than made up for the Juvenile defeat. Especially against a colt who had won only two graded stakes. Fans could smell a battle brewing brought on by Borislow on the way to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), but a whiff was all they got. Toccet suffered an injury this year and has not started.

Following the discovery of Vindication's suspensory injury while in California, Vindication received revolutionary hyperbaric oxygen therapy and stem cell treatment. Sent to Padua near Summerfield, Fla., Vindication had been training forwardly at the farm's training center and was returned to Baffert's barn at Del Mar Aug. 4.

Padua and Hill 'n' Dale have not yet announced a fee for Vindication, but an option commanded $20,000 at the Aug. 4 Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation raffle for the right to breed to him for $50,000. If he does stand for $50,000, that is $10,000 more than the fee for last year's top-priced incoming stallion, Came Home.

Vindication, who was produced from graded stakes winner Strawberry Reason (by Strawberry Road), retired with four wins and earnings of $680,950. His half-brother, by Seattle Slew's son, A.P. Indy, went for $1.9 million at the recent Saratoga yearling sale.