10/23/2002 11:00PM

BC Countdown - Juvenile: More modest Padua remakes itself


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - It was the morning after Cash Run had upset the 1999 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Gulfstream Park, and Satish Sanan, head of Padua Stables, was still beaming like the hot south Florida sun.

"You haven't seen anything yet from Padua," Sanan said.

In the three years since Cash Run's win, it's been more like we haven't seen anything at all from Padua.

After making one of the biggest splashes in the sport with expensive yearling purchases, a Breeders' Cup victory, and the construction of a state-of-the-art, 700-acre farm in central Florida, Padua all but disappeared.

Now, with a change of philosophy and personnel - including the firing of Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas - Sanan said he believes Padua is back on course. On Saturday, Padua will be represented by the purposefully named Vindication, an undefeated 2-year-old colt, in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Arlington Park.

"It's a vindication of the team," said Sanan, whose team includes his wife, Anne; farm manager Bruce Hill; farm trainer Randy Bradshaw; and the Sanans' daughter Nadia. "A Hall of Fame trainer said this horse would never leave the training center."

Padua purchased Vindication, a son of Seattle Slew, for $2.15 million at last year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale. That figure represents almost as much as Sanan spent for 12 lots at the Keeneland July sale, at which the highest price he paid was $370,000.

"Our average yearling price used to be almost a million dollars," Sanan said. "This past year it was $300,000."

Sanan, the chairman of the IMRglobal Corp., an information technology company, got into the game in 1997 with a five-year plan. He chose Lukas as his trainer because he wanted to be with the best. Lukas was coming off a streak of six consecutive Triple Crown victories.

"We were going to build a great broodmare band, buy the best horses we could, concentrate on 60-40 [percent] fillies to colts, buy the top lot, and hopefully hit the home run," Sanan said. "But Wayne tends to buy more yearling colts rather than fillies. In the last two years, we spent a lot of money and had a tremendous amount of injuries."

Among the big ticket yearlings that never panned out was Born Perfect, a $3.6 million daughter of Mr. Prospector and the Keeneland July 2000 sales topper, who broke a leg before making it to the races. Fortunately, she was saved for broodmare duty. Authenticate, a son of Gone West-Lakeway who cost $3.3 million, has had a number of hind-end problems and, though he is still in training, expectations for him are modest.

Baccalaureate is a $2.15 million son of Seeking the Gold who has been plagued by foot problems. America's Storm, a $3.6 million purchase at Keeneland September 2000, is winless in five starts, while Full Mandate, a son of A.P. Indy who sold for $3.2 million that same sale, just won his maiden.

In late July 2001, Sanan decided to part ways with Lukas. He dispersed his horses to various trainers. On the East Coast, Sanan uses Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott, Nick Zito, Ben Perkins Jr., and Jimmy Toner. In the Midwest, Sanan has horses with Patrick Byrne, Steve Asmussen, and Dallas Stewart. In California, Sanan uses Bob Baffert, and he will shortly be sending horses to Bobby Frankel.

"We had to make some changes and this is what we're going to do," said Sanan, who gives Bradshaw, a former Lukas assistant, a lot of credit for Padua's revival. "We had to start to control everything. The pressure from Wayne to send the horses in March and April is not there."

Even with the personnel change, it didn't appear that Sanan's luck was changing. On July 24, Freedom's Daughter, a $525,000 Saint Ballado filly, won the Grade 2 Schuylerville at Saratoga. She died from colitis X three weeks later, however.

Vindication, however, has helped ease the pain of Freedom's Daughter's loss. Three days after Freedom's Daughter won the Schuylerville, Vindication won a six-furlong maiden race at Del Mar. A month later, he won an optional claimer at Del Mar.

Baffert decided the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park was a smart way to ease Vindication into stakes company while earning points for the Breeders' Cup. But when the gates opened, another horse unseated his rider and caused Vindication to get off slowly. For the first time, Vindication found himself behind horses.

When Mike Smith took Vindication out in the clear down the backside, he made an impressive, sustained bid to make the lead around the turn, and drew off to win by six lengths.

"He's a special horse," Sanan said. "Win, lose, or draw at the Breeders' Cup, the key is keeping him safe and sound for the Kentucky Derby."

Vindication and the promise of another colt, Defy Logic, has Sanan believing Padua is ready to return to prominence.

"The first couple of years we thought this game was easy," Sanan said. "It's a tough game. It's taken us a long time to get there. We have some good horses; we just need some luck. I think we deserve it. We've paid our dues in this game."