Updated on 09/16/2011 8:13AM

Bred to excel - just not in Derby


LAS VEGAS - Proud Citizen, impressive winner of Saturday's Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, has been featured in this column before because of his extraordinary pedigree. After a dazzling 9 1/4-length maiden victory at Belmont Park in his second start on June 28, fizzled as the favorite in the Sanford Stakes. He followed the Sanford with another lackluster performance in the Hopeful Stakes, prompting his trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, to have him examined. He was found to have a spur growth on his left knee, and minor surgery corrected the problem.

After an eight-month layoff, he reappeared in a very difficult spot, the Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles, without the benefit of a prep race. Proud Citizen showed speed for nearly six furlongs and, as expected, tired to finish seventh, nine lengths behind Came Home. While it is surprising that Lukas used the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby as a prep for the $325,000 Lexington, the unorthodox schedule was necessary if the lightly raced Proud Citizen was to make the Kentucky Derby.

Of course, the Lexington was never the prize, but it served two points. Because Proud Citizen got off to a late start at 3 and lacked a foundation, he desperately needed another race after the Santa Anita Derby. He also lacked the necessary graded earnings to get into the Derby because a maximum field of 20 is expected.

Charismatic was another Lukas trainee who used the Lexington as a springboard to the Kentucky Derby, but the similarities between Charismatic and Proud Citizen end there. Charismatic not only had a deeper foundation for the Derby, he was better bred for 1 1/4 miles. Charismatic is by Preakness Stakes winner and Derby runner-up Summer Squall, out of a mare by Drone, whereas Proud Citizen is by speed influence Gone West, out of a mare by European speed influence Green Forest, a son of stakes sprinter Shecky Greene.

Fast and versatile

An immediate success at stud, Gone West (by Mr. Prospector) became a darling of breeders in the U.S. and Europe because of his amazing versatility. His runners are racy-looking individuals who bring high prices at sales auctions and have uncommon speed on all racing surfaces. Very effective on dirt up to a middle distance, they also are exceptional on turf and wet tracks.

In Gone West's second crop, he sired European champion miler Zafonic, as well as Rothmans International Stakes winner Lassigny. A steady succession of stakes winners on dirt and turf continued, highlighted by the amazing Da Hoss, two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile, and notable stakes winners West by West, Grand Slam, Performing Magic, Old Tascosa, Dance Parade, Mr. Greeley, and Elusive Quality. Gone West's son Commendable won the Belmont Stakes, but like Editor's Note (a son of speed influence Forty Niner), he was an aberration.

Gone West's runners have been highly successful in Europe and Japan. Royal Abjar was champion 3-year-old and older male in Germany. Gone West's group winners in Europe include Dazzle Muqtarib, Aboline, Raah, Algharb, Saddad, Tamayaz, West Man, and Mythical Girl. Zafolia and Sweet Orchid were Group 3 winners in Japan.

A deep female family

Just as Gone West was not an average son of Mr. Prospector, Proud Citizen is not an average son of Gone West. Proud Citizen is out of the Green Forest mare Drums of Freedom, a daughter of Danseuse Etoile, who is a full sister to 1972 champion 2-year-old filly, La Prevoyante, who was undefeated in 12 starts.

Proud Citizen's third dam, Arctic Dancer, was a full sister to Northern Dancer, and also a half-sister to two influential broodmares, Raise the Standard and Spring Adieu.

Notable runners who descend from Raise the Standard are champions Machiavellian and Coup de Genie, and Group 1 winners Bluemamba, Orpen, Exit to Nowhere, and Way of Light. Spring Adieu is the second dam of one of the world's leading stallions, Danehill.

Pace player in Derby

Proud Citizen could dictate the Derby pace. Despite his powerful pedigree, however, Proud Citizen will be hard-pressed to wire the Derby. He won't find the surface at Churchill Downs as conducive to speed as Keeneland, and he will face constant early pressure from quality individuals such as Buddha (Unbridled's Song), Came Home (Gone West), Medaglia d'Oro (El Prado), and War Emblem (Our Emblem). Even if he does stave off the first wave of challengers, he will face the second line, which will probably include Harlan's Holiday (Harlan), Johannesburg (Hennessy), and Castle Gandolfo (Gone West). It seems unlikely that Proud Citizen would then have enough to hold off a third and final assault from late closers Saarland (Unbridled), Perfect Drift (Dynaformer), and Essence of Dubai (Pulpit).

Proud Citizen is reminiscent of another Lukas trainee, Honour of Glory, who was a brilliant miler ill-equipped to go 1 1/4 miles. In the 1996 Derby, Honour and Glory (Relaunch) set the pace for six furlongs before fading to 18th in the 19-horse field. Honour and Glory rebounded from that effort to win the prestigious Metropolitan Handicap, and later that year finished third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Proud Citizen joins Mayakovsky, Came Home, Ethan Man, and Booklet as 3-year-olds who could attain glory this year if kept to races under 1 1/8 miles.