01/26/2006 1:00AM

Good match produces quick success


ARCADIA, Calif. - The mating of the relatively unknown stallion Proud Irish to the mare Dora's Tower nearly a decade ago was one of convenience - two horses owned by Daniel Cardenas's Tricar Stable. It has developed into the cornerstone of a two-state racing and breeding operation.

Saturday at Santa Anita, Proud Tower Too, the third foal of that mating, will start in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic for California-breds and Florida-breds.

Proud Tower Too is already the most successful foal produced by Dora's Tower and has forced Tricar farm manager and trainer Sal Gonzalez to alter his breeding plans for Dora's Tower. For the foreseeable future, she will be bred only to Proud Irish.

"They seem to match so well I'm afraid to send her to another stallion," Gonzalez said. "Why do [you] want to waste a year? They only live so long."

Proud Tower Too is a full-brother to two stakes winners, the late Proud Tower ($280,660) and Proud Cardenal ($168,795).

Proud Tower was the California-bred champion 2-year-old male of 2000, the year he won three stakes, including the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes. He died in 2001 as a result of injuries suffered during a morning gallop.

Proud Cardenal won the Phoenix Gold Cup, a top sprint at Turf Paradise. He is currently at a farm in Anthony, N.M., with a decision forthcoming on whether he will stand at stud or be returned to racing, Gonzalez said.

Proud Tower Too has already done something that his older brothers did not accomplish - win a Grade 1, the Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds over seven furlongs on Dec. 26.

At a glance, Proud Irish and Dora's Tower would seem incapable of producing a Malibu winner.

Dora's Tower, 15, had a nondescript racing career, winning two of seven starts in a one-season career. She is by Irish Tower out of Dora Maar, a Native Charger mare who was winless in 10 starts but produced the stakes winner Blue Eyed Danny.

While Tricar Stable has moved much of its horse operation to a 100-acre farm in Anthony, N.M., it has maintained ties in California. Dora's Tower is based at a farm in Apple Valley, Calif., where a yearling full-sister to Proud Tower Too is also based.

The Malibu win has given Proud Irish, who stands for $2,500, heightened status in his first year at stud in New Mexico.

Last year, Proud Irish was bred to 21 mares, most of which are owned by Tricar Stables.

Cardenas, a resident of Tucson, Ariz., who keeps a low profile, is president of Tricar, a produce company with operations in Mexico and Arizona that produces bell peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

The new farm, in New Mexico, has a three-quarter-mile training track and 60 stalls and was built from scratch, Gonzalez said.

Proud Tower Too is Dora's Tower's sixth foal and third stakes winner. Since 2001, she has been bred to Proud Irish each year.

"She's due to foal in March. They seem to work so good," Gonzalez said of Proud Irish and Dora's Tower.

Taking a shot in the big race

The victory in the Malibu Stakes gave Gonzalez and Tricar the confidence to try the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic, which is run over 1 1/8 miles. They could have easily sent Proud Tower Too to Florida for the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint over six furlongs.

The distance of the Classic will be a challenge for Proud Tower Too, who has not won beyond 7 1/2 furlongs, the distance of his first stakes win in the On Trust Handicap at Hollywood Park in early December.

To prepare for Saturday's race, Proud Tower Too had two one-mile workouts in January.

"After he won the Malibu, he looked tired," Gonzalez said. "He's been very aggressive and alert. We're so blessed that he's stayed sound. He's training really good; he worked a mile in 1:39. I like the way he's been training. He has maintained his weight."

Proud Tower Too has won 5 of 16 starts. In his only other appearance at 1 1/8 miles, he finished eighth in the Snow Chief Stakes against California-bred 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park last April.

Gonzalez dismisses that result and takes the blame.

"We tried to rate him, and that was a big mistake," he said. "He wanted to be on the front."

Gonzalez said he is anxious for the Sunshine Millions Classic, wondering if Proud Tower Too can enhance a promising record in a nationally televised race.

"It's exciting to come up to this race," he said. "We'll find out if he can get the distance."