By COLLEEN SCOTT
They say that some things are worth the wait. That’s definitely the case with RFI Sophie AlMaktub (RFI Maktub x RFI Sophia Al Neschi, by Neschnij), the 2010 bay mare from Brazil.
The first time Stuart and Carol Nierenberg, Silver Box Southwest, saw Sophie was at the 2018 Brazilian Nationals, the day before her appearance in the Senior Mares class. It was love at first sight. “I wasn’t aware at the time of Sophie’s global renown, but Cindy McGown and Mark Davis of Royal Arabians, apparently knew her well,” recalls Carol. “Together, we immediately tried to buy her, but we were told she was not for sale, at any price.”
The following night, after watching her in Senior Mares, the foursome became even more interested in obtaining Sophie. “Ringside, I watched, spellbound – frankly, with fingers crossed that she wouldn’t do well, and hence that owner Rodrigo Foz Forte (RFI Arabians) might change his mind and decide to sell her,” Carol says with a laugh. “Alas, Sophie owned the ring that night, electrifying the crowd with her perfection and her presence, and was crowned National Champion Senior Mare of Brazil.”
Despite subsequent repeated partnership attempts to purchase Sophie, Rodrigo continued to hold the line – the mare was not for sale. Recalls Travis Rice, sales manager for Royal Arabians: “We kept getting the same answer – no, no, no, and for emphasis – no.”
But at last, some two years later, Forte did put a price tag on Sophie. Without hesitation, the four partners agreed to it.
In a sense, the mare was coming home: Rodolfo Guzzo, the halter trainer for Royal Arabians, Silver Box Southwest and the foursome’s partnership entity, Royal/Silver Box, had been the first to show Sophie, in Brazil as a yearling, leading her to her first national championship title. Now he would be preparing and showing her again.
Arriving on U.S. soil at the end of 2020, Sophie proved to be everything her admirers had perceived at their first meeting in Brazil.
Carol describes her as the “Katharine Hepburn of Arabian mares. Like Hepburn, Sophie AlMaktub possesses an elegance, the epitome of class, refinement and presence that are unique to her – breathtaking, utterly singular, unmistakable and unforgettable,” she says.
Travis, who was with the four partners when they first became interested in purchasing the mare, says Sophie is “perfection. She just makes anyone stop and ask, ‘Who is THAT?’”
Beyond her presence, correctness, uniqueness and show-stopping beauty, Sophie has also proven her value as a broodmare. Her get include well-decorated and highly admired progeny from a variety of sires.
There’s Pharaoh HBV (by Psyche HBV), the 2016 All Nations Cup Silver Champion and 2017 Dubai Silver Champion Colt; RFI Sawari (by Excalibur EA), 2017 Brazilian National Gold Champion Junior Filly; and RFI Splendor (by El Tino), the 2018 Brazilian National Silver Champion Colt.
Guzzo will present Sophie on U.S. soil for the first time at the April Arabian Breeders World Cup on the polo grounds in Scottsdale. He is “ecstatic” to be able to partner with the mare again, and show her to Arabian enthusiasts in the U.S.
“There’s no person that sees Sophie who doesn’t fall in love with her,” he says. “She has gotten better and more beautiful over the years. I am excited to run into the arena with her as she makes her debut in America. Even more people will fall in love with Sophie.”
The Royal/Silver Box partnership, too, is looking forward to her U.S. show ring debut –and to many years of cherishing Sophie Almaktub. Says Carol: “Rodrigo Forte graciously permitted Royal/Silver Box custody of The Queen. She is now our greatest treasure. But in truth, she belongs to the whole Arabian world. Her genetic contributions have been, and will continue to be, immense. Sophie is, quite simply, a singular sensation. She is an icon of the Arabian breed. We are grateful every day for the privilege of being in her presence.”