08/12/2003 12:00AM

Vindication, juvenile champ, retired to stud


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Undefeated juvenile champion Vindication, who had been training in California for a possible return to the races, has been retired to stand at stud.

Vindication is expected to ship from California to John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Farm in Lexington on Monday. His stud fee hasn't yet been set.

Campaigned by Satish and Anne Sanan's Padua Stables, the 3-year-old Seattle Slew colt had been out of training since January after injuring a suspensory ligament during a workout. He spent the spring at Padua's farm in Florida undergoing treatments with stem cells and a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, and appeared to be recovering well. Vindication returned to trainer Bob Baffert's barn earlier this month, but the colt's connections decided that there was not enough time to adequately prepare him for what would have been his ultimate target, the Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

"His comeback from injury has been nothing less than remarkable, and he continues to go to the racetrack with zest and verve," Padua owner Satish Sanan said. "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."

Padua purchased Vindication at Fasig-Tipton's 2001 Saratoga select yearling sale for $2.15 million. The colt's dam, the Grade 3-winning Strawberry Road mare Strawberry Reason, was a young mare with no stakes winners to her credit at the time, but the Padua team had been impressed with the colt's pedigree and athleticism. Sanan said after the sale that he had intended to pay $1.5 million but bid on because, "I had to take a chance."

The chance paid off during Vindication's juvenile season. Vindication won all four of his starts in 2002. His first stakes win came by a six-length margin in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile, which he used as a springboard to a 2 3/4-length victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

That clinched his 2-year-old title, giving Padua its first Eclipse Award winner and, it appeared, a serious contender for the 2003 Triple Crown. But those Derby dreams fell apart in late January when Vindication injured his suspensory and was shipped home to Padua. Despite his progress, Vindication couldn't beat the calendar to make it back in time for the Breeders' Cup Classic, which was to be his final career start under the terms of Padua's deal with Hill 'n' Dale.

"He's probably 60 days away from a race, at least," said Baffert, who called Vindication the best 2-year-old he has ever trained. "I didn't want to run him in just one race and then throw him into the Breeders' Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles. According to the deal, he had to be retired the day after the Breeders' Cup Classic. There's just not enough time."

- additional reporting by Jay Privman