03/14/2013 3:53PM

DRF Breeding Hot Sire of the Week 3/10-3/16: Proud Citizen


Joy Gilbert photo courtesy of Airdrie StudProud Citizen

Fair Grounds Race Course has, over the past several years, served as a showcase for runners from the owner-trainer team of Brereton Jones and Larry Jones. In the last three weeks, two of their best—Mark Valeski and Believe You Can—emphatically announced that they will be contenders to reckon with in their respective male and female handicap divisions as 2013 unfolds. Mark Valeski stormed to an impressive come-from-behind win in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap on Feb. 23, and Believe You Can annexed her second win of the year in thoroughly dominating fashion on March 9, taking the New Orleans Ladies Stakes by 5 3/4 lengths. Both 4-year-olds are by Proud Citizen, DRF Breeding’s Hot Sire of the week, who stands at Brereton Jones' Airdrie Stud and has developed a reputation as one of the best sires of racehorses in North America.

Mark Valeski and Believe You Can first surfaced last spring as the latest additions to a growing roster of Proud Citizen homebreds. The unrelated Joneses had both forged highly successful careers through the years before teaming up in the late 2000s. Former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones, along with his wife Libby, founded Airdrie Stud in Midway, Ky. in 1972, and in subsequent decades bred earners of over $80 million along with several Breeders’ Cup horses, including 2000 Juvenile Fillies winner Caressing. Larry Jones emerged from the Midwest circuit during the 2000s to become one of the most respected horsemen in racing, training talented horses such as Island Sand and Wildcat Bettie B and really hitting his stride late in the decade with Grade 1 winner Hard Spun, who placed in the 2007 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and is now one of the most sought-after young sires in the world.

Brereton Jones stood Proud Citizen upon his retirement from racing in the fall of 2003. Jones said upon welcoming Proud Citizen that he was the most attractive stallion ever brought to Airdrie, and the horse’s physical build was buttressed by a superlative pedigree. By one of Mr. Prospector’s best sons at stud, Gone West, Proud Citizen is out of the Green Forest mare Drums of Freedom, a half-sister to three stakes winners. His second dam, Danseuse Etoile, by Buckpasser, was a full sister to U.S. and Canadian champion La Prevoyante. That female line traces directly back to his fourth dam, Natalma, dam of Northern Dancer, and on to Proud Citizen’s fifth dam, foundation mare Almahmoud. 

Bred by Edmund Loder in Kentucky, Proud Citizen was purchased for $425,000 at the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sale by Robert Baker, David Cornstein, and William Mack, also known as Grand Slam Farm. The trio sent Proud Citizen to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who with typical confidence started him in the Sanford and Hopeful Stakes immediately after the colt broke his maiden in fall 2001. Proud Citizen showed little in those two races, and finished seventh in the Santa Anita Derby, his first start of 2002, but he broke through in the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland with a front-running 3 1/4-length win. Lukas then entered Proud Citizen in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and the colt produced arguably his career-best performances, finishing second and third, respectively, to War Emblem. Proud Citizen suffered a condylar fracture in his next start, a fifth-place finish in the Belmont, and upon returning to the racetrack in 2003 never recaptured his 3-year-old form, winning only one of his final seven starts. Nevertheless, he still possessed enough talent to go along with conformation and pedigree to demand a $12,500 fee in his first season at Airdrie.

Proud Citizen has gradually developed into one of Airdrie’s stalwart sires, and he began a productive stint as a shuttle stallion to Chile in 2006. He has sired two Chilean champions to date—Vamo a Galupiar and Torre Laguna—as well as numerous stakes horses in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, including Grade/Group 3 winners It Happened Again, Miz Ida, Motovato, River Proud, and Went the Day Well. Overall, Proud Citizen has sired 29 stakes winners from 584 foals ages 3 and up. Airdrie boosted his stud fee from $10,000 to $15,000 in 2013, and his book is already full, based in part on interest from breeders hoping to emulate the success of Jones’ homebreds in recent years.

His best from that group, Proud Spell, earned an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly of 2008 after winning the Kentucky Oaks, the Alabama Stakes, the Delaware Oaks, and the Fair Grounds Oaks in a stellar campaign. Out of the Langfuhr mare Pacific Spell and from the family of Grade 1 winner J P’s Gusto, she earned over $2.1 million before retiring in 2009.

Mark Valeski and Believe You Can are next on the list, and based on their exploits at Fair Grounds are poised to contend in graded stakes events in Kentucky, New York, and elsewhere in the coming months. Mark Valeski took the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes last summer at Belmont in his career-best performance to date. He was sidelined for the rest of 2012 and underwent surgery to remove a knee chip, and returned to racing with a solid runner-up finish in the Louisiana Handicap in January at Fair Grounds before moving forward in the Mineshaft. He will be pointed to a start in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on the Louisiana Derby undercard for his next start, with the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs this summer as a long-term possibility. The 4-year-old is out of the multiple stakes-winning Fortunate Prospect mare Pocho’s Dream Girl, and his second dam, True to Romeo, by Gallant Romeo, is a half-sister to four stakes horses, including Grade 1 winner and leading sire Silver Buck.

Believe You Can also benefited from an extended break before returning at Fair Grounds. She had not raced since a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes last summer, which followed her breakthrough win in the Kentucky Oaks, but showed no evidence of inactivity when taking the Tiffany Lass Stakes by 10 1/4 lengths in early February. She backed that up with a dominant score in the New Orleans Ladies, and Larry Jones told Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh that he would likely point Believe You Can to the La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Oaks undercard for her next start. That would set up a potentially lucrative one-year anniversary party for the classy filly, who is out of the unraced El Prado mare El Fasto and is from the family of graded stakes winners Classic Elegance, Chorwon, Rush Bay, and Basket Weave, as well as multiple stakes winner Yukon Robbery.

As if the returns of Mark Valeski and Believe You Can weren’t enough to burnish Proud Citizen’s stature and fuel the stable’s hot streak currently percolating in the Crescent City, these connections are also behind the promising 3-year-old filly Same Cross, who won her first three starts by open lengths at Fair Grounds during the current meet. The dark bay or brown filly switched to turf for her stakes debut in the Happy Ticket Stakes on March 16, but struggled over the new surface and finished fifth.

Out of the winning Langfuhr mare Saramar, Same Cross takes her name from the breeding pattern that produced Proud Spell, who as noted above was produced by Langfuhr’s daughter Pacific Spell. Graded stakes winner Najran, who was off to a good start at stud before being euthanized in 2011 following an accident, is among Same Cross’ female family members.