Odds-on favorite Vindication pulled from Derby race.

Odds-on favorite Vindication pulled from Derby race.

Barbara D. Livingston

No Kentucky Derby for Injured Vindication; May Return for Travers, Breeders' Cup

Padua Stables' Vindication, champion 2-year-old of 2002 and early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, has been taken off the Derby trail due to an injury to his left front suspensory.

The son of Seattle Slew had been battling a slight foot bruise following his five-furlong work in :58 2/5 on Jan. 25, but had recovered and returned to the track on Feb. 3. A precautionary ultrasound, however, revealed a "minute spot" on the suspensory, which was unrelated to the bruise.

"We are not yet sure the extent of the injury until we ultrasound in 60 days," said Padua general manager Nadia Sanan. "Unfortunately," Sanan continued, "this derails his training for the Derby. This is obviously a devastating blow to my family and Padua Stables, but we remain hopeful that we will soon know what the problem is, and he will be able to resume training as soon as possible."

Sanan said the Travers and Breeders' Cup Classic are the ultimate new goals for Vindication.

"Vindication has been in the hearts of many of his fans and the racing public," Sanan said, "and that is why we are being so open about what is going on from the beginning."

"We just found it by accident," trainer Bob Baffert said. "He had been moving a little choppy from the foot bruise, and we had been fighting that. We took the scan just to make sure everything was all right, and we noticed a suspicious spot on the suspensory, indicating there was some trauma. We've been working on it with a high-powered magnetic machine, and after only two days, the area already is 50% better. Everyone at the barn and at Padua are devastated. We're still in denial. These horses are so fragile, and that's why I didn't want to talk about the horse too much. You never know what's going to happen. The highs in this game are really high, but the lows are horrible."

Veterinarian Dr. Norman Rantanen, who took the ultrasound, said they really won't know much until the ultrasound is taken in 60 days. "There's some inflammation there, and when we get that under control we'll have a better idea what's going on," he said. "There are some changes in the ligament, and right now we're not sure what that means. That's why we need to get the swelling under control first, then take another ultrasound."

Vindication captured all four of starts in 2002, winning the Kentucky Cup Juvenile and Breeders' Cup Juvenile to nail down the Eclipse Award. In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, he defeated his stablemate, Kafwain, by 2 3/4 lengths, covering the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.61.

Bred by Payson Stud, Vindication was purchased by Satish and Anne Sanan's Padua Stables at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale at Saratoga from the Taylor Made Sales Agency consignment for $2,150,000.

In December, John Sikura Jr.'s Hill 'n' Dale Farms bought a portion of the breeding rights in Vindication from Padua Stables. Vindication is set to enter stud at Hill 'n' Dale near Lexington, Ky. following his racing career and Padua will retain complete ownership and continue to manage the son of Seattle Slew while racing.

"Obviously we're disappointed," Sikura said. "We were confident in his ability to compete in the 3-year-old classics. Hopefully he'll come back for the fall classics and other significant races, but if his injury precludes him from doing so, you can't take away the fact he's a brilliant and undefeated champion.

"If he had won the Kentucky Derby, he would have become the most valuable horse in the world, but some of the best horses of our time either didn't compete in that race or were not mature horses and continued to grow in stature afterwards. His reputation is not damaged.

"We are not involved in his racing career. Our job has been and continues to be cheerleader for the horse. When he's retired, we'll take over from there. I'm most disappointed for Satish and his family. He's put up a tremendous amount of money in the business and, despite all the setbacks, he's continued to move on. There aren't enough guys like him in this industry."

At the time of the syndication, Satish Sanan said Padua retained a majority interest of Vindication's breeding rights but declined to say the specific percentage that was sold.

Sikura declined to state the exact amount he paid for his interest in Vindication, but said the horse was valued "well in excess of $20 million." The Blood-Horse has learned that contractual clauses put the potential total value on Vindication at close to $30 million.

Additional reporting by Lenny Shulman.

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