Unbeaten Vindication out of Triple Crown

Leg injury causes Baffert to sideline top contender

Horse Racing

February 07, 2003|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Vindication, undefeated winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and leading contender for the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Triple Crown series after injuring a suspensory ligament while training at Santa Anita Park in California.

The news came yesterday after a week of speculation about the colt's condition. Trainer Bob Baffert had abruptly changed Vindication's training regimen and then bristled at questions about the popular horse, a son of Seattle Slew owned by Florida-based Padua Stables.

"Everyone at the barn and at Padua [is] devastated," Baffert told The Blood-Horse magazine. "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."

After Vindication had a sizzling 5-furlong workout Jan. 25 at Santa Anita, Baffert postponed the horse's next breeze and altered his gallop schedule. Yesterday, Baffert said the colt had bruised a foot while galloping. A precautionary ultrasound test, he said, revealed the ligament injury in Vindication's left front leg.

Nadia Sanan, general manager of her family's Padua Stables, said Vindication would be pointed to the Travers Stakes this summer and the Breeders' Cup Classic this fall.

Vindication topped the list of Kentucky Derby and Preakness contenders after winning all four races last year and earning the Eclipse Award as North America's top 2-year-old. Now 3, he would have attracted extraordinary attention leading to the spring classics, largely because of his revered sire, Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.

With Vindication sidelined, the Derby-Preakness picture is murkier than ever. Undefeated Sky Mesa hasn't raced since injuring an ankle days before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and Laurel-based Toccet, a six-time winner at 2, has sore ankles.

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