Baffert doesn’t believe in jinxes.
believes in good race horses.
why he’s not concerned whether Vindication can become the first Breeders’
Cup Juvenile winner to win the Kentucky Derby.
has his reasons. One is, before this year, the Juvenile was run at 1 1/16 miles.
This year, on Oct. 26 at Arlington Park, it was run at 1 1/8 miles. A speed
horse can win at 1 1/16 if it gets the right trip. But it takes a true stayer to
win at 1 1/8 miles, especially as a 2-year-old.
is a stayer. In fact, the son of the great Seattle Slew, who died early this
year at age 29, is one of Baffert’s best 2-year-olds ever. That’s saying a
mouthful considering he has trained the likes of Silver Charm, Real Quiet,
General Challenge and Point Given.
one of the best 2-year-olds I’ve had in a long time, just the way he does
things,” Baffert said of Vindication, a $2,150,000 colt that is unbeaten in
four starts. “He should be better than Seattle Slew. Vindication has a better
sire (than Seattle Slew, whose sire was Bold Reasoning).To me, Vindication is as
exciting as Silver Charm and he’s faster than Point Given. He’s handier and
therefore has less chance of getting in trouble.”
only trouble the Padua Stables colt experienced to date came in the Kentucky Cup
Juvenile, a race he won by six lengths. He broke in the air and came away nine
lengths behind the leader. Despite going five-wide, he made up ground in a blur
and won with authority.
Smith, who has ridden Vindication in all four races, wasn’t surprised he led
throughout in the Juvenile. “The Kentucky Cup was the first time he
shipped,” Smith said. “He got a little excited, it was his first time
breaking in front of the grandstand where the fans congregate, and he went in
the air at the break. Otherwise, he might have been in front in that race,
the colt’s impeccable record, Baffert expects criticism of Vindication all the
way to the Derby on May 3.
the trouble with this business,” Baffert said. “Instead of looking at the
good in a horse like Vindication, people start looking at his flaws, so he’ll
be knocked from here on.”
the inception of the Breeders’ Cup in 1984, no Juvenile winner has won the
Derby during those 19 years, a long enough span to be considered a
“jinx” in some quarters. But Baffert isn’t buying.
think all the 2-year-olds are in the same boat (as to) whether they can get a
mile and an eighth or not,” Baffert said. “Vindication looked like he
handled it fine, because I could tell when he came back he wasn’t tired.
Another eighth of a mile isn’t going to hurt him. A mile and an eighth this
time of year is just like a mile and a quarter in May, that’s how I feel about
that Baffert could do anything about getting a horse to win at a mile and a
quarter anyway, even though he already has saddled three Derby winners--Silver
Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem this year. “You can’t train
them do go a mile and a quarter,” Baffert said. “They can do it or they
can’t. All the Seattle Slews are different. Vindication (from Seattle Slew’s
last crop) has speed and he carries it. Most Seattle Slews want to get out
there, get it on and keep going.”
said he has “no idea” whether Vindication will take the Southern California
route to the Triple Crown. The white-haired trainer also is preparing Kafwain
and Bull Market, second and fourth in the Juvenile, for the Triple Crown.
may run here, he may not run here,” Baffert said of Vindication. “I don’t
know. It’s too far off. California doesn’t have a good (3-year-old) prep
program. “I’ll probably run wherever they have the highest appearance fee.
Vindication is an appearance-fee kind of horse, so we’ll go wherever the
appearance fee is the highest.”
was alluding to a $50,000 appearance fee he was paid by the New Jersey Sports
and Exposition Authority for running War Emblem in the Haskell Handicap at
Monmouth Park last August.
was kidding abut Vindication, of course.
HOMESTRETCH: These thoughts on the
Breeders’ Cup Ultra Pick Six scam come from a veteran horseman who also is a
computer whiz: “It really doesn’t take much of a hack job when you work on
the system you want to make changes on. The only real surprise is that this
hasn’t been detected before. It will make a great story line for the movies,
especially with the irony of Volponi winning the Classic. They say truth is
stranger than fiction.” . . . Wilson Shirley, consultant for the Thoroughbred
Owners of California, reported at the November meeting there were deficits in
pari-mutuel revenues from California on-track and off-track wagering, but they
have been more than offset by advance deposit wagering revenues. As a result,
purses are averaging a 2.6 percent increase from ADW in 2002 compared to 2001 .
. . And this touching e-mail from the fiancée of the late jockey, J.C.
Gonzalez, who was killed in a race at Fairplex Park in September of 1999: “I
happened to be searching the web and came across your article on J.C. I was his
fiancée and we were to be married just nine days after his death. Your article
sparked many memories anew. I miss him very much still. Your article was very
well-written. -- Elena.” Alas, Elena’s misfortune continued. After J.C.’s
death, she married a promising 21-year-old quarter horse jockey, Oscar Andrade,
who was paralyzed from the chest down in a riding mishap at Los Alamitos on
Sept. 27, 2001, 10 days after their son was born. The courageous Elena is a
fatalist, however. “Like J.C., it happened doing what he loved most,” she
says of her husband’s accident. “And knowing them both, they wouldn’t have
wanted it any other way, if it was to happen. Although I have a new life with my
husband now, I still like to reminisce about the beautiful memories J.C. and I
shared . . . That which the heart has cherished becomes a part of us forever.”