Cover Story - Vol. 51, No.3, Issue #7

Cover Story - Vol. 51, No.3, Issue #7

Cover Story: Rae-Dawn’s MD Massima … Making Her Mark
by THERESA CARDAMONE

Murray and Shirley Popplewell have achieved a great deal as breeders and owners of world-class Arabian horses. And, along with thousands of other enthusiasts, they have made the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show their first stop of the show season each year, with countless championships earned for their Rae-Dawn Arabians. As the 65th annual edition of the show commenced in February, they felt the familiar anticipation and excitement. Still, they couldn’t know that they were destined to leave there with perhaps their greatest prize ever.

Despite the depth and consistency of the Rae-Dawn herd, Murray is always open to the idea of a new addition, should he come across a horse that ignites his passion and makes sense for his breeding program. Likewise, Rae-Dawn trainer Alcides Rodrigues keeps his eyes peeled for opportunities to continue to elevate the farm profile on the world stage. So perhaps it isn’t too surprising that among the over a thousand horses on the showgrounds, they would, independent of each other, discover the same prize; a horse who gave them both goosebumps. The stunning bay yearling with an exquisitely chiseled head and classic proportions is MD Massima (Truest x MD Mirka [AJ Thee Luca x MD Psylk, by Padrons Psyche]), a third-generation product of famed Ecuadorian breeder Manuel Durini.

Murray explains, “Alcides and I both loved her the moment we saw her. She is the type of horse that, when you look at her, she grabs your heartstrings and won’t let go.” Before the filly even showed in the championship, the decision was made to try to acquire her for Rae-Dawn. At the time, Massima was in the capable hands of trainer Mike Wilson, with whom they negotiated a first option to purchase and an agreed-upon price. And it was a good thing that they did. Wilson went on to show MD Massima to the title of Scottsdale International Gold Champion Yearling Filly, earning a unanimous decision from the judges’ panel and creating a slew of eager potential buyers. On behalf of Durini, Wilson was true to his word, and the filly went to Rae-Dawn.

“Mike honored the price and the deal, even after the filly went unanimous champion,” Murray enthuses. “I will always respect the integrity that he displayed, with so many other interested parties wanting her themselves. Shirley and I, and the entire Rae-Down team, are grateful to breeder Manuel Durini for this incredible opportunity. Massima fits my idea of a great horse, and we feel very good about her future at Rae-Dawn Arabians.” MD Massima is a daughter of Truest (Trussardi x Marlene Dietrich, by Marwan Al Shaqab), who is both the 2015 U.S. National Champion Futurity Colt andU.S. National Champion Junior Stallion, as well as the 2017 U.S. Reserve National Champion Junior Stallion.  

MD Massima moves with an elegance and regal bearing that captures the attention of everyone who sees her. Her strength of character and presence are palpable and not-to-be-denied. Murray and Alcides felt it, and so did each of the judges who scored her class in Scottsdale. It was, as Murray puts it, “a confirmation” of what he already knew.

No one could have known that the 2020 Scottsdale Show would be the last major Arabian horse event to take place before the onset of “stay safe, stay at home” orders, issued in early March. Plans were radically changed; dreams were put on hold. But now Murray has his sights set on the U.S. Nationals in October, where Alcides is set to show MD Massima under the Rae-Dawn colors. Murray can’t wait. “She has earned the right to be the Arabian Horse Times’ Cover Girl for the U.S. Nationals issue,” he declares. “We hope that she will win again in Tulsa; however, we love her no matter the outcome and know that she will make her mark on the Arabian breed.”