Vindication Named Champion 2 Year Old for 2002
Like father, like son. Twenty-seven years ago, Seattle Slew rolled to
a 3-0 record and earned an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.
His son, Vindication, is the 2002 Eclipse winner in the same category
after compiling a 4-0 mark that included a powerful 23?4-length victory
in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and outpointing rivals
Toccet and Sky Mesa. Now it remains to be seen whether the talented colt
can keep his perfect mark intact while sweeping the Triple Crown like
his legendary sire.
Vindication represented a bit of a gamble for the Sanans because other prospective buyers at the sale had raised questions about his soundness. But the Sanans decided to buy him anyway because they were impressed by the colt's conformation, pedigree, and class. In addition, the veterinarians they consulted had given Vindication passing grades.
The Sanans named the colt Vindication, in part because of the warnings they received that the colt would never race. They also chose the name because of the criticism Padua's program had received after many of the stable's pricey purchases failed to win big races.
Vindication made his career debut in late July--nearly three months after Seattle Slew's death--capturing a six-furlong maiden event by 51?2 lengths at Del Mar. He won his second start, also at Del Mar, but trainer Bob Baffert noticed that Vindication raced greenly, playing around when he got the lead. Wanting him to learn to work harder, Baffert chose Turfway Park for Vindication's next start because "if things are going to go wrong, they usually go wrong there."
With regular rider Mike Smith aboard, Vindication rolled to a six-length triumph in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes (gr. III) in September, but he had to overcome adversity to grab his third career victory. Vindication broke awkwardly while a horse next to him stumbled and lost his rider. Vindication ended up at the back of the pack, but settled nicely before putting together a strong rally that carried him to victory.
Vindication did not race again until the Oct. 26 Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile. When an impatient Satish Sanan questioned the time off, Baffert explained: "With a Michael Jordan, you don't play him in the pick-up games."
The Breeders' Cup race lost some of its luster when undefeated grade I winner Sky Mesa was scratched because of an injury. But Vindication still had 12 other challengers, including Whywhywhy, the post-time favorite off of his sharp training moves at Arlington Park and victories in the Futurity (gr. I), Sanford (gr. II), and Flash (gr. III) Stakes.
Vindication burst from the gate like a rocket and battled stablemate Bull Market in the early going while Wando and Whywhywhy pushed the pace. Three-quarters of a mile into the race, Bull Market stuck his head in front, but Vindication fought back and brushed him off as they roared past the quarter pole. At the top of the lane, Vindication opened up a clear lead and was never really threatened even though he drifted out and another stablemate, Kafwain, came charging at the end. The winning time for the 11?8 miles--the Juvenile's longest distance ever (because of the Arlington track's configuration)--was 1:49.61.
Late in 2002, the Sanans sold a portion of the breeding rights in Vindication
to John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Farms, but retained a majority interest
in the colt. Seattle Slew resided at Hill 'n' Dale at the time of his