Aria Rakeem (FA El Rasheem x *MD Hibat Allah)
2022 Arabian National Breeders Final Senior Supreme Champion Stallion Aria Rakeem, handled by Rodolfo Guzzo.
The sire of Aria Rakeem, FA El Rasheem (FA El Shawan x Virtuosa MLR).
The dam of Aria Rakeem, *MD Hibat Allah (DA Valentino x *Anastasiaa).
Royal Prelude (Aria Rakeem x *JJ Argentina), 2022 colt, bred by David Boggs, and owned by Cindy McGown, Royal Arabians, Scottsdale, Arizona.
Raya Sunshine (Aria Rakeem x Aria Raya) 2022 filly, bred by John and Deb Mitchell and owned by Joe and Kim Orr, Rose City Arabians, Ridgefield, Washington.
EE Tayir Alfiniq (Mayaan Al Nadir SA x Tehanii), a 2022 grey filly.
Jillian Whitlow is looking forward to enjoying a show career with Mayaan. They are pictured at Mike Wilson’s farm in Florida.
2022 filly by Aria Rakeem and out of Fallan AC, bred by Deb and John Mitchell, and owned by Rick Richetta, Oakland, California.
By Denise Hearst
Since Aria Rakeem was first featured in Arabian Horse World’s Summer 2021 issue as a three year old, he has achieved some important milestones: he’s matured in all the right ways, approximately 20 of his foals have arrived so far (10 more are expected this year, and another 30 foals internationally will arrive in 2023), and he made his showring debut, winning unanimous 2022 Champion Arabian National Breeder Finals Senior Supreme Champion Stallion.
As Greg Knowles, co-manager of the Aria Rakeem Group (with Jeff Sloan) says, “He’s maintained his elegance and refinement, and he looks more like a stallion now. Rakeem is a beautiful animal. He’s got this big beautiful black eye, he’s athletic, he’s a sweet horse to be around, and he has a lot of try. His foals look to be high quality and very promising. They are beautiful horses, and more athletic than one might have guessed, with a lot of bend in the neck. They are going to make nice performance horses as well.”
John and Deb Mitchell made the winning bid on Rakeem at the 2020 Marquise Auction. They credited their agent, Greg Knowles, for his keen eye and belief in the colt’s potential. A couple of months after the auction, Rakeem was a fixture in Greg’s presentations, and as he says, “The colt lit up the place,” and in the process booked 30 breedings. Jeff Sloan recalls that he had mixed emotions when consigning Rakeem to the auction. “I have loved this horse since I saw him at four months of age. He’s been great his whole life. I didn’t want him to get away. So when John and Greg started talking about forming a syndicate, I was all in. We had a meeting of the minds and put the partnership together.
“It’s not easy to make that kind of commitment for a yearling colt, and at an auction no less,” continues Jeff. “But John did it. John has had an amazing ride with this horse. He’s a deserving guy – he made a big commitment to the breed, he stayed in, maintained his passion, and it’s been a wonderful experience.”
The five partners – John and Deb Mitchell, Ruel and Virginia Gober, Stu and Carol Nierenberg, Joe and Kim Orr, and Rick Richetta are all very much involved with Rakeem. “We were the first to write a check,” says Joe Orr. “He has become even more refined in the face. Everything else has filled out and bloomed into what seems to have unlimited potential. Now, we cannot wait to see that bad boy bridled! Most of the Rakeem partners were present for his first appearance in the ring. The energy was electric. Every one of us had dreamed of the day we could share this unique and animated stallion with the world. Rakeem was showing against the reigning Scottsdale Champion Senior Stallion Pilatus PCF, who we absolutely love. They both had a beautiful entrance, and the fight was on. It felt like a boxing match – Ali x Fraser! When Rakeem won the Championship unanimously my cell phone blew up with breeders all over the world offering congratulations and enthusiasm for Rakeem. It was a perfect public introduction and a great job by Rodolfo Guzzo.”
For partner Rick Richetta it was a joy to see Rakeem in the ring at last. “We are so lucky to have Guzzo at Royal to work with Rakeem and to occasionally test his aptitude for the showring,” he says. “Guzzo was excited about him and he took his enthusiasm straight to unanimous Gold! I was so proud of his elegant presentation. Rakeem is self-possessed, upright and relaxed. He stands to perfection, and the second he lets down, he is relaxed and comfortable. I love this horse. He exceeds my expectations every time I see him.”
The Mitchells are the breeders of four of Rakeem’s 2022 foals and have sold three of them. “The foals were out of a diverse group of nice mares, three fillies and one colt,” says John. “They are all good, and one filly in particular, out of Elena Enigma SA (Trussardi x MC Sophiie), is exceptional. She is still with us.” Greg notes that she is a U.S. style standup horse with a neck miles long, big eyes, and tiny throatlatch.
“These days, Rakeem is a busy guy with lots of foals due, both here and internationally,” adds John. “We are planning another good group of mares for 2023. Our partners are happy with him, too. He has made the business fun. We certainly have endured the bad occurrences that happen to all of us, so it’s nice to have something good happen.”
Rick Richetta is savoring the ride with Rakeem. “The biggest excitement of 2022 was the fun of the first foals arriving,” he says. “They, like their sire, are leggy, upright and smooth, with great personalities and show horse attitudes. My three favorites of those I have seen are Royal Prelude, bred by David Boggs and now owned by Royal Arabians, and two grey fillies bred by Deb and John Mitchell, one of which, Raya Sunshine, is now owned by the Orrs of Rose City. And my exciting news is that my friends, Deb and John Mitchell, kindly agreed to sell me my very favorite filly – Rakelle (pending), a gorgeous grey filly out of the exquisite Fallan AC (Nofal NK x Love At Firstcyte AC), a U.S. National Reserve Champion Yearling Filly and second place mare at Scottsdale 2022, now owned by Felix Cantu. Rakelle has the signature Rakeem balance, short back, long hip, laid back shoulder with upright neck and long proportionate legs. She has a lovely head, with Arabian type and carriage. She is now at Royal, preparing for the Scottsdale week festivities.
“For 2023 I have a couple lease-option mares in foal to Rakeem,” adds Rick. “One belongs to Lee and David Black, who chose to breed their lovely *Marwan Al Shaqab daughter to Rakeem, and I retain an option on the foal. I did a similar lease arrangement with a special iconic Versace daughter. So I am especially excited to see those two foals next year.
“I cannot wait to continue on the exciting adventure Aria Rakeem has provided for our partnership.”
Joe and Kim Orr have purchased two Rakeem fillies and bred another out of their mare Aria Raya (*Baha AA x Rhiana FFW). “They seem to personify Rakeem’s breeding strengths – short back with a long shapely neck that comes straight out of that glorious shoulder,” says Joe. “The hindquarters are amazing and the Rasheem and Hibat Allah factors are obvious. We are very excited and feel they will only get better with age. For 2023, our Gold Junior and Senior World Cup Champion Mare, Jasminia AS (Soul of Marwan AS x Jasmine Love NA), and our Enotri daughter out of a beautiful Enzo daughter, are in foal to Rakeem.”
Beyond the partners, there are some impressive Rakeem foals popping up here and there, such as Cindy McGown’s standout colt, Royal Prelude out of *JJ Argentina (*Faraa Al Shaqab x Diva Girl by Versace), purchased from David Boggs.
For Greg and Jeff the strategy of promoting a youngster can be a critical factor in his success as a show horse and sire. “We got a big bonus going Champion at the Breeders Finals. Now the momentum is where I want it to be,” Greg says. “For him to earn four first places and a second over the Scottsdale Champion gave him a lot of credibility, and it gave Rodolfo Guzzo a shot of confidence. I believe it gives Rakeem an open path to the 2023 Scottsdale and National championships. Plus there will be more foals by then, and thus, more momentum. Guzzo says he’s got the best attitude of any horse he has stood up. He looked amazing in the ring – big, tall, stretchy, and beautiful. Pretty cool. He’s a wonderful, solid, good-character horse, who tries his heart out for you. When Guzzo stands him up he does his job. He looks like a male version of Hibat Allah.”
“We are being judicious about where and how often we show him,” says Jeff. “Scottsdale 2023 is the plan but it’s a little early to say definitively. While there is a lot of focus on the showring today, the primary focus should be your horse’s ability to sire or produce high quality foals that are meaningful to the breed’s trajectory. We’ve seen many horses in the showring that are incapable of achieving that, yet they’ve won the highest awards. And we’ve seen the reverse, horses that have not had showring success but who have gone on to be influential breeding horses. It’s wonderful when it’s one and the same. So the first focus for Rakeem was to establish him as a breeding horse. We are now bringing him out to select shows so that he can be seen and appreciated.”
It’s early going but the partners are seeing the things they hoped for in his foals. “He’s by FA El Rasheem (FA El Shawan x Virtuosa MLR by Versace) and out of *MD Hibat Allah (DA Valentino x *Anastasiaa). Those are two very different styles of horse,” says Jeff. “Sometimes you can get the best of both. Rakeem has another good group of 30 foals coming next year. He needs a body of work – a chance to show us what he can do.”
For the past 20 years or so, Jeff has focused on the idea of creating partnerships as an effective vehicle to bring new people into the breed or to buy a horse fractionally when 100 percent ownership is not possible. As he explains, “This is a group of people who are passionate about the Arabian horse. They wanted to be involved with a stallion that could be a cornerstone of their own programs, and also a horse that they could get behind and campaign. We had a group dinner after Rakeem’s win at the Breeder Finals, and it was just what you’d want. People were talking about their foals, mares in foal for next year, the great success of winning at Breeder Finals, how good he looked, how well he was presented. And how proud they are to be a part of his ownership group. While there is certainly an aspect of financial return associated with ownership in Rakeem, it’s clear that there is so much more. It’s also a case where a group of people got together, they enjoy each other, and they share that common bond through their passion for the Arabian horse.
“So far Rakeem has delivered and they are having a great time. What more can you ask for?”