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Vindication, juvenile champ and sire, dies at 8

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Vindication, champion 2-year-old in 2002 and a promising young stallion, died early Thursday morning at age 8.

The Seattle Slew horse was euthanized on the operating table at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital at about midnight after surgeons performing exploratory surgery discovered he had a stomach rupture, according to Sasha Sanan, whose family raced Vindication in its Padua Stables colors and owned a majority interest in him during his breeding career at Hill 'n' Dale Farms in Lexington.

Hill 'n' Dale owner John Sikura said that Vindication, who stood for $60,000 in 2008, covered about 78 mares this season.

According to Sanan, Vindication began showing signs of colic late Wednesday night and did not respond to immediate treatment with banamine, which can help relieve the symptoms of colic. Farm staff quickly sent the horse to Rood and Riddle, where Dr. Rolf Embertson performed surgery, expecting to find an operable problem in the small intestine.

"When they opened the abdominal cavity they found grain and fecal matter, and it turned out he had a gastric rupture," Sanan said. "It's pretty much fatal at that point. The contents of that tract will empty into the abdominal cavity, and they are toxic, so you can't really do anything at that point except euthanize the horse humanely."

Satish Sanan paid $2.15 million for Vindication at the 2001 Saratoga select yearling auction, sending daughter Nadia to bid surreptitiously from the price-board operator's booth in the balcony, where she could not be seen. Vindication went on to become a family favorite of the Sanans, who had high hopes for him as a Triple Crown candidate. He won all four of his starts at 2 with ease, culminating in a 2 3/4-length score in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile that clinched his championship crown.

Trainer Bob Baffert brought Vindication back at 3, but an injured suspensory ligament ended his Triple Crown campaign in February and ultimately ended his career when it was determined Vindication would not be ready to contest the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic. Vindication entered stud in 2004 at Hill 'n' Dale.

To date, he has sired such performers as Grade 2 winner More Happy, Grade 1-placed Maimonides, Grade 3-placed Larrys Revenge, and stakes winner Ferragamo.

"He's shown he can get a very good horse, and we were entirely confident in the horse and his ability to sire a Grade 1 winner," Sikura said. "And there was an emotional attachment, too. For us, getting Vindication was a real turning point, because he was a horse everyone in the world wanted to stand, and Padua showed the confidence in Hill 'n' Dale to do the deal with us and let us syndicate the horse. The job that our team did, from gathering elite mares to breed to the horse to success in the sales ring, justified their confidence. I'm proud of the job we did from a business point of view and a horsemanship point of view.

"It's a premature and really unfortunate loss," he added. "It's such a shock, I'm still almost in denial. I keep thinking I'll go out and see him, and he's not here."

Sikura said a necropsy would be performed, but Sanan said that arrangements for the horse's burial or cremation had not yet been determined.

"We're still trying to get our hands around this," Sanan said.

Bred by Payson Stud, Vindication was a son of the Strawberry Road mare Strawberry Reason, a Grade 3 winner. He was a three-quarter-brother to Grade 3 winner Scipion and a half-brother to Grade 2-placed Blackberry Road and to Japanese stakes-placed True Reason.