Cover Story – Vol. 47, No. 6
Marajj: More Than A Champion
(Marwan Al Shaqab x RGA Kouress)
by THERESA CARDAMONE
Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud Al Qasimi beamed with joy as he led his newly crowned United States National Champion Stallion Marajj on a victory pass. Having owned, believed in, and promoted Marajj ever since he was a yearling, Sheikh Mohammed took extreme pleasure in his triumphant return to competition among some of the finest horses on the planet. It was the culmination of a remarkable 28 hours that had already seen his two other entries win their own National Champion honors to set the stage for this Trifecta of titles for Albidayer Stud. It was a meant-to-be moment, made even more miraculous by the wonderful twist of fate that released the Sheikh from a prior commitment that would have prevented him from sharing in one of the most amazing days in Albidayer history.
Foaled in 2004, Marajj had already more than made his mark as both a show horse and a sire. He won prestigious international honors on three continents including his victory as 2007 World Champion Junior Stallion in Paris before retiring to the breeding shed. Marajj has consistently produced phenomenal offspring including D Shahla, the 2015 Gold World Champion Junior Mare, Maharaja HDM, the 2009 Silver World Champion Stallion, and 2015 Austrian National Champion Stallion, Marjan Albidayer. Manager Dawn Martin has worked with many of Marajj’s ancestors over the years, making him especially dear to her. “The first time I saw Marajj, when he arrived in Sharjah as a yearling, he reminded me so much of his grandsire Gazal Al Shaqab,” she related. “Gazal had a special bounce when he walked that you could recognize from a mile away. Marajj had this same bounce and way of carrying himself. Like a giraffe!” Dawn had been the first one to condition and train Gazal, beginning when he was still being carried by his famous dam, Kajora, and had done the same with his own son Marwan Al Shaqab, Marajj’s spectacular sire.
There have been fifty U.S. National Champion Stallions, but there is only one Marajj. “He likes cats,” Dawn revealed. “He had a cat in Sharjah. She would sleep in his stall, sometimes on the floor, and rub on his legs while he nuzzled her. She would lie on the window sill and they would watch the show jumpers working in the arena. Usually she would walk out of his stall full of slobber where he had been licking her!”
As a youngster, Marajj was known to rear in joyful exuberance, a habit that the Albidayer team discouraged. Clearly, he enjoyed every minute of his return to the show ring at the Nationals with Michael Byatt on the lead! “In the Stallion Championship, as he trotted into the ring, he just couldn’t control himself,” she said. “Right in the middle, with all eyes upon him, he gave a rear! Then he went on with his business and gave an almost flawless show! At 12 years of age, he was in amazing shape and perfectly happy to give his ‘all’ to Michael.” The next thing that Dawn shared defined one of Marajj’s strongest traits, his incredible, loving nature. “The minute he left the ring with the blanket of roses on his back, surrounded by a crowd of excited people, a little girl came up and asked Michael if she could pet him,” Dawn stated. “Michael did one better because he trusted Marajj completely. He picked her up and set her on Marajj’s back!”
As further evidence that Marajj is no ordinary stallion, he was trained to ride at 10 years of age by a trick rider who taught him how to go without a bit or reins and to bow and lay down on command. “He was really proud of Marajj and what an amazing, smart horse he was,” Dawn recalled. “At our open house in Sharjah, he came in riding Marajj with a plain leather cavesson. He unhooked the reins and did figure 8’s with him at the canter. They came to the center of the arena and Marajj bowed to the crowd, then spun around and bowed in the other direction. The people were so surprised!”
Marajj is more than the 2016 United States National Champion Stallion. He is more than his pedigree, more than his progeny. He is more than a silhouette, more than a breeding fee. He embodies the spirit and beauty of the Arabian horse in ways that mean even more than his show record. He is Marajj.