ArabianCentric Spotlight

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Rae-Dawn Arabians… Our future, our foundation!

As the morning orange sun rises over Scottsdale’s Sonoran Desert, a crystal-clear blue-sky breaks dawn on a new day of happenings on Arabian Park Drive, the heart of Scottsdale’s Arabian horse community. Murray and Shirley Popplewell’s Rae-Dawn Arabians has made some sweeping changes to their story over the past few years, and just when one would think it couldn’t get any better, it does, and new chapters continue to be written encompassing the goodness of a beautiful life entwined with Arabian horses.


As so often happens when one share’s their life with Arabian horses—an eye for beauty develops to be more inquisitive, along with a taste and style that not only is sensitive to the eye but creates a love and a passion that develops more personally—emotions transcend the dream into manifestation. Sharing time with Arabian horses for any period of time has a magical way of this most magnificent breed intrinsically weaving themselves in and out of your very being. Suddenly your life has completely changed for the better, to do better, to breed better; and as opportunity presents itself, you also welcome into your life, and your breeding program, some of the very finest of bloodstock. Rae-Dawn Arabians is no exception.


“It’s the people, the horses, and the lifestyle that comes along with being involved with Arabian horses,” Murray shares, “and it’s a wonderful way of life for Shirley and I. We enjoy every moment of it.” Both Murray and Shirley are quick to exclaim, almost in unison, that the only thing guaranteed in life is that it is ever changing. And change, does it ever. “Our exposure to the world-class mare NW Siena Psyche catapulted our program many steps forward” says Murray. “We saw Siena during a presentation in Santa Ynez and we were awestruck.” NW Siena Psyche is a daughter of Padrons Psyche and out of the Bey Shah daughter NV Shanteuse. The classic blending of Psyche and Bey Shah+ and a near unbeatable mare in the show ring culminated in Siena’s dynamite production abilities, gracing the industry with some of the most winningest horses ever. “We purchased two embryos from NW Siena Psyche on that visit to California and RD Marciena was one of the resulting fillies,” notes Murray. RD Marciena is sired by QR Marc and was the 2010 Breeders World Cup Gold Champion Yearling Filly in Las Vegas, 2010 U.S. National Champion Yearling Filly, and 2012 U.S. National Champion Futurity Filly. But aside from RD Marciena’s tremendous show career and accomplishments, is her ability to produce producers, like her dam before her. Bred to Bey Ambition, RD Marciena produced RD Marciea Bey, a second generation of Rae-Dawn breeding and arguably one of the most beautiful mares in the world today. From a blending of Ali Jamaal, Marwan Al Shaqab, Padrons Psyche, Bey Shah, *Bask, and *El Shaklan to name but a few, RD Marciea Bey has curated a repertoire high in success: 2016 U.S. and Canadian Reserve National Champion Futurity Filly, 2018 U.S. Reserve National Champion Junior Mare, and this year, masterfully presented by resident trainer Alcides Rodrigues, 2021 Arabian Breeders World Cup Silver Champion Mare on the Polo Fields in Scottsdale. “We are taking her back to the U.S. Nationals one last time,” smiles Murray. RD Marciea Bey will show with Mr. Alcides Rodrigues in the Senior Mare class, vying for the title of United States National Champion.


With an eye always on the lookout for the next “phase” of Rae-Dawn, Giana Leah PCF was added to the program in January of 2018. “She was eccentric, and all the pieces just fit,” says Murray. “She came out of her stall, tail over her back, neck arched, and with the most incredible showy attitude. And her face … it was so sculpted, so refined.” Giana Leah PCF hails from Sam Peacemaker’s PCF Arabians. She is by Polidoro FC and out of the illustrious producing Aliyah Vision PCF (PCF Vision x Maria PCF, to DA Valentino/Afire Bey V/Padrons Psyche/Echo Magnifficoo). “The pedigree doesn’t get much finer,” says Murray, “and she looks exactly as her pedigree says she should which excited us very much.” After joining the Rae-Dawn collection in 2018, Giana Leah PCF captured the coveted Junior Filly Championship rose garland at Scottsdale a month later. That very same year, she went on to be named 2018 U.S. National Champion Open Yearling Filly. “There was a lot on the table at the 2019 U.S. Nationals,” Murray recalls. “There were some very, very special 2-year-old fillies competing and the pressure was on.” Stress and excitement aside, Giana Leah PCF prevailed and was crowned 2019 U.S. National Champion 2-Year-Old Filly with Alcides Rodrigues. After a brief hiatus with time to relax and rejuvenate last year, Giana Leah PCF will return to the U.S. Nationals this year as a 4-year-old to compete in the Junior Mare division, again with Rodrigues. “It’s for sure not an easy decision to bring back a horse who accomplished so much as a yearling, especially one of our very best,” says Murray, “but it’s a horse show and we’re here to have fun and enjoy.” Nothing like embracing the moment, and the now, with a mare like Giana Leah PCF.


Despite the depth and consistency of the Rae-Dawn herd, Murray and Shirley Popplewell have always been open to the idea of a new addition, should they come across a horse that ignites each other’s passion and makes sense for the RD show and breeding program. Likewise, Rae-Dawn’s resident trainer, Alcides Rodrigues, keeps his eyes peeled for opportunities to continue to elevate the farm’s profile on the world stage. As fate would have it, the 2020 Scottsdale Show presented an opportunity and MD Massima came into the picture and joined the Rae-Dawn herd. A spectacular daughter of Truest, MD Massima descends from the matriarch herself, MD Mirka, a mare blending the program of Ecuadorian breeder Mr. Manuel Durini. MD Mirka is a daughter of AJ Thee Luca (Thee Desperado x *HED Caramba, by Magnum Psyche) and out of the Padrons Psyche daughter MD Psylk. Ironically, MD Massima traces to Canadian-bred Showgirl SP who was bred and born in Ontario; how wonderfully fitting that this mare line comes full circle back to Canada. “We knew Massima’s mother line was very special, as grandmother *Anastasiaa is also the dam of big-time winning MD Hibat Allah,” exclaims Murray. “Adding to her power-packed pedigree, MD Massima won the 2020 International Gold Championship title at Scottsdale with then trainer Mike Wilson and capped an already momentous year being crowned 2020 U.S. National Champion Yearling Filly with Alcides Rodrigues in a perfect ending to the show season.” Alcides couldn’t agree more. “She is one of the biggest 2-year-olds I have ever seen and is ultra-feminine and very refined with lots of curves—we love her!” MD Massima will also return to the U.S. Nationals this October to stake her claim of the red rose garland as Champion Two-Year-Old Filly with Rodrigues.


Also moving the Rae-Dawn program forward, are two very special fillies welcomed in December of 2020: Alesia ENB and RD Nova JP. And how fitting that both fillies, bay in color, coincidentally have a sparkle so reminiscent of stablemates Giana Leah PCF and MD Massima, both purchased near the same age and same time in years past. “Alesia ENB took our breath away when we saw her at Sandro Pinha’s Arabians International,” exclaims Murray. “Her attitude was electric—we got goosebumps when she came walking out of the barn. We knew what we were getting ourselves into with Alesia because she shares the same mother as our beloved Giana Leah PCF.” From Mike Weinstein’s breeding program, Alesia ENB is sired by Psynergy’s junior stallion Atticus ENB, who is a son of *El Nabila B and out of Om El Benedine, by *Sanadik El Shaklan. Her dam, Aliyah Vision PCF, needs little introduction, as this mother line is prevalent in Rae-Dawn’s collection and has produced phenomenal show and breeding horses for both the farm and others. “We’ve come to learn this pedigree is very predictable,” says Murray. And predictable it is. Alesia ENB dazzled the crowd at the Arabian Breeders World Cup this past April capturing the coveted Silver Champion Yearling Filly trophy and earning the highest movement score of the entire show, propelling Rodrigues to the forefront as the 2021 Arabian Breeders World Cup Handler of Excellence. With fall sights set on Tulsa, Rodrigues and Alesia ENB will show this October in the coveted Yearling Sweepstakes Filly class. She has been expertly managed and prepared for by the Rae-Dawn team this year and Nationals will be her second outing and arena she steps into this year.


Bred by Jack Perry, the beautiful bay yearling filly RD Nova JP is by the international import *Ibn Farid and out of Starry Night JP, who blends a lovely mother line of some of the industry’s greatest show horses, ever—Magnum Psyche, Padrons Psyche, Ynazia HCF, Odyssey SC (by Versace), and Arn-Ett Perlane+. Murray and Shirley didn’t think twice when they first saw Nova at Greg Knowles’ training barn. “She exuded so much quality!” Murray exclaims, “we weren’t leaving there without her!” RD Nova JP is a style all her own who has inherited a tremendous ancestry of the Arabian breed’s greats. “Smooth bodied and extra refined, she has a wonderful showy character that is so important in today’s show ring,” comments Alcides. “She has a unique sparkle when competing at the very highest level; just ask Shirley. She showed Nova so beautifully at Scottsdale and together the pair captured 2021 Scottsdale Signature Yearling Filly Championship honors in February.” It was a phenomenal win amongst a group of the top fillies in the country, in the world for that matter. An elimination cut which can be grueling for babies under the February desert sky, and some 40+ fillies later, RD Nova JP came out on top. “She won it!” celebrates Murray. While Rae-Dawn Arabians has won many top honors at Scottsdale, including big wins in the Signature Auction classes, winning the Signature Futurity Filly class was a first for the farm and a wonderful accomplishment.


“Breeding Arabian horses is an art all of itself,” notes Murray. “You don’t know what you don’t know, and it takes years studying to uncover pedigrees and horses that fulfill and bring forth qualities and traits that light your soul on fire.” Arabian horses have woven themselves into the Popplewell’s fabric of life. What started as a small acquisition of a “few” riding horses for a hobby, has morphed into a world-class collection of the finest stallions, mares, and foals housed in facilities that span two countries—the breeding farm in Saskatchewan, Canada and the marketing, sales and show center in Scottsdale, Arizona. With sights set on Tulsa, the old adage of “be careful what you wish for” and “the sky’s the limit,” rings very, very true for the Popplewells and Rae-Dawn Arabians.


Written by Braden Davidson

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