Updated on 09/16/2011 8:34AM

Victory is Vindication for Padua

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Vindication stamps himself the early favorite for the 2003 Kentucky Dery with a convincing 2 3/4-length win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Saturday at Arlington Park.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Satish Sanan feels vindicated indeed.

Vindication, so named because of lingering doubts about the colt's physical durability, established himself as the leading contender for next year's Kentucky Derby with a convincing 2 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $1.07 at Arlington Park.

Kafwain rallied to be second, completing a one-two sweep for trainer Bob Baffert, who won his first Juvenile in his sixth attempt. Hold That Tiger, who broke horribly, got up for third, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Baffert's Bull Market, who was part of the early pace. Whywhywhy, the 2-1 favorite, faded to 10th after sitting a seemingly perfect trip for six furlongs.

The victory was the fourth in as many starts for Vindication, a son of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, and should cement an Eclipse Award for him as champion 2-year-old. Fourteen of the previous 18 Juvenile winners - including each of the last six - have been voted champion.

It is the second Breeders' Cup win for Sanan's Padua Stable; Cash Run won the 1999 Juvenile Fillies. At that time, Padua was enjoying great success in the sport it entered in 1997. Since then, however, Sanan had fallen on hard times both with his technology company, IMRglobal Corp., and his racing stable. Several big-ticket purchases by Padua did not even make it to the races.

"We had a tremendous amount of success when we first started, and we had some bad days in this game, but we had to stick with it," Sanan said. "There was a lot of people second-guessing us. We stayed with it, we continued to invest, and we're going to continue to invest."

Sanan said he and his team were second-guessed for spending $2.15 million in August, 2001, on Vindication, who didn't pass some veterinary exams because of ankle problems. Sanan decided to bypass his budget and bought the horse.

"I was told not go past $1.4 or $1.5 million," Sanan said. "I stayed with it. Thank God I did."

Sanan also said that a Hall of Fame trainer had told him that Vindication would not make it out of his training center in central Florida.

The victory also vindicated Baffert's decision not to run Vindication after he won the Kentucky Cup Juvenile on Sept. 14.

"Michael Jordan doesn't play in pick-up games," Baffert said. "Today was the race we were looking at."

Under Mike Smith, Vindication broke on top and took the field into the first turn. Around the clubhouse turn, Bull Market hooked Vindication and they dueled through fractions of 23.29 seconds and 46.11.

Vindication began to edge clear after a half-mile, but Bull Market came back on even terms at the half-mile pole. The two were heads apart around the turn, but Vindication put his head back in front at the five-sixteenths pole. Smith waved his whip at Vindication approaching the quarter pole and straightening away for home, Smith hit him once right-handed and he drew clear. Vindication covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.61 over a fast track and returned $10.20 as the second choice.

"He got away really well today, I was able to give him a breather down the backside," said Smith, who won his second race on the card. "Then I called on him heading for home, he gave me a burst of speed and it was over then. I had to keep busy on him because he was looking at the gate and everything."

No Juvenile winner has returned the following year to win the Kentucky Derby. But, this will be the first time Baffert, a three-time Derby winning trainer, will have a chance to do it.

"We have a lot of bragging rights till the first Saturday in May or till the first time we run him," said Baffert, who indicated the horse will not run again this year. "We know he's talented, he's good enough. I just got to keep him sound."