The Ninth Annual Arabian Breeders World Cup

The Ninth Annual Arabian Breeders World Cup
By Beth Ellen Hunziker

Nine has always been my lucky number and it became the lucky number for many of the winners at the Ninth Annual Arabian Breeders World Cup held April 16-19, 2015 at the South Point Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

It takes far more than luck to win at the Arabian Breeders World Cup. This international show is the most prestigious showcase devoted to purebred Arabian Halter and Breeding horses in America and it is gaining ground with breeders, owners and handlers around the globe. To compete at the World Cup, horse and handlers must be ready to stand up against the best in the Arabian show ring today. The depth of this year’s competition, the extravagant staging of the venue and the intense energy of Las Vegas made this World Cup a truly exhilarating experience.


The highest honor at the ABWC is winning the prestigious Breeders Cup. This year’s winners were Dean and Terry Wikel of Pegasus Arabians. The “PA” initials from the Wikel’s Pegasus Arabians are known around the world for exceptional quality. The Wikels have been breeders for 25 years and their success encompasses titles not only from Scottsdale, Regionals, Youth, Canada and U.S. Nationals, but also from international venues as well.

In addition to winning the 2015 ABWC Breeders Cup, the Wikels have been the leading breeders at the Arabian Breeder National Finals for the past two years. Dean and Terry Wikel’s success is profoundly significant, not only to them, but also to their family who are very active in the Amateur To Handle classes. In fact, we often see Dean Wikel and members of his family competing in the same class.  The Arabian Breeders World Cup is a show created by breeders for breeders and the Wikel family’s win this year was very well deserved.

One of the most special aspects of the World Cup is that it offers great opportunities for breeders to showcase their programs. It is especially meaningful when a winner is presented by its breeder and owner. The deep feelings of joy, pride and accomplishment are evident on the faces of these handlers However, do not let the title of Amateur fool you, many of these handlers are true horsemen or women with years of hands-on experience. In fact, the judges publicly acknowledged Murray Popplewell for his excellent handling and presentation of his horses at this year’s show by giving him an honorable mention for the Handler of Excellence Award. Murray and Shirley Popplewell are the owners of Rae-Dawn Arabians. They have been breeders for many years and have earned the title of Top Five Breeders at the World Cup.

The Marino family are also highly competitive Arabian horse breeders and owners. Denise and A.J. Marino, Sr. are often seen ringside, cheering on their son, A.J. Marino, Jr. as he shows horses from their breeding program. The Marinos are all about the sport, the fun and the excitement of showing their horses in both Amateur To Handle and Open competition. They have also been awarded Top Five Breeders at the World Cup.



Who can resist the feminine charms of an Arabian Mare? The abundance of beauty and exotic Arabian type in the classes for fillies and mares at this year’s World Cup was overwhelming and everyone - including the judges - enjoyed it immensely. The World Cup has earned a reputation as the premier international Halter and Breeding show in America. Breeders and owners from across the country, and around the globe, brought their best representatives to compete. Winning mares and fillies came from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Poland, Spain, and Qatar.

The beautiful show program, produced by Knight Media and, is a important tool for breeders. It provides useful data, including sires and dams of the competitors. Many sires were represented by their lovely daughters in Friday’s classes for fillies and mares. It was interesting to see the diversity of pedigrees among the female champions. This level of diversity is absolutely critical and it ensures a healthy future for the Arabian horse. Another positive sign for our industry was the number of new owners and participants. I felt their enthusiasm and joy were contagious and really added to the fun and excitement of the show. A perfect example was Marcella Haensch of Switzerland and her mare, Gamellia, the Champion Mare 9 years & Older, presented by Ted Carson. Gamellia is Marcella’s first horse. She was purchased at the Polish Prestige Sale last year and Marcella thought it would be fun to show her. The World Cup was Marcella’s first horse show in the United States. Watching her win was so much fun – you could see her joy and pride of ownership in her beautiful mare.



The allure of an Arabian mare is perfectly paired with the heart-stopping excitement of an Arabian stallion. Over the past years, the quality of the stallions competing at the World Cup has steadily increased. This year’s classes for colts and stallions were full of experienced national champions, reserve national champions, international champions and future champions. Among the breeders of the show’s champions were many long-time members of the Arabian horse community. Although it’s important for the health of the breed to bring in new enthusiasts and potential new owners, it is also important that we acknowledge the contributions of our old friends too. It was wonderful to see many long-time breeders at the show. They are still going strong and playing major roles in the halter show ring at the World Cup.

The Champion Junior Colts Of 2014 A, Magic Mystery Z, was bred by Luciano Cury, an Arabian horse breeder in Brazil since the 1980’s. Luciano owns Haras Boa Vista and has bred National and International Champions. In addition, the Champion Junior Colts Of 2013 B, Shaheen C, was bred by Rhonda Coleal of Coleal Ranch. Rhonda and her mother, Rhoda, have been breeding Arabian horses for over 40 years and they have produced many important horses including the stallion Eden C.

Another champion bred by a long-time member of the Arabian horse community is Titan AS, the Champion Colt of 2012. Titan AS was bred by Psynergy Enterprises and is owned by the Arabian Soul Partners, a group that includes Michael Weinstein, a breeder and owner for more than 30 years. Michael was intimately associated with great horses such as the stallion Menes, the influential matriarch Kajora, and many others.

John Brown and Dr. Robert Williams of Rojo Arabians bred the Champion Senior Stallion 6-8 Years, Trussardi. Their breeding program spans at least 25 years and has had a profound influence on the industry as the breeders of the iconic sire, Versace, and now with Trussardi. They also owned Precious As Gold, the dam of these two important sires. Rojo Arabians has owned and bred multiple national champions in halter and performance.


One of the primary goals of the Arabian Horse Breeders Alliance is to support and encourage breeders. Through their focused efforts with the World Cup, the organization is bringing new and established breeders together and achieving their goal.

I believe it is not the number of years a breeder works that makes them a success. More often, a breeder’s passion and vision enable them to succeed. Janey Morse and her late husband Don Morse, bought Vitorio TO (DA Valentino x Sol Natique) from his breeders Ed and Maureen Horton, when he was just a yearling colt. Vitorio TO went on to win five National Championship titles and to become one of the most sought after sires in the world. Today, Vitorio TO stands at the famed Michalow State Stud in Poland, and yet his offspring at this year’s World Cup dominated the ring. The contributions of Don and Janey Morse and Oak Ridge Arabians have created a precious and enduring legacy.

The success of the Breeders World Cup is the result of many people’s contributions. Large or small, each gift of time, talent and financial support is meaningful and deeply appreciated. Among the most generous and significant contributions to the show has been the continued support of HH Mohammed VI, King of Morocco. Mr. Lahsen Fdail, the official representative for the King, has graciously attended the show and presented the elaborate gifts bearing the seal of Morocco. The beautiful ornate saddles, the gleaming golden stirrups and the elegant ceremonial daggers are treasured by all the fortunate winners. No doubt these exquisite awards receive a place of honor in their homes and farms.

Many people contribute to the success of the Arabian Breeders World Cup. There are some who willingly roll up their sleeves and help wherever there is a need. Among the most active supporters are the AHBA Board of Directors. Last year the board went through some major changes when some members retired. New members were added to the team and they worked incredibly well together. Among the new board members is James Swaenepoel of Belgium. James is the first, and only European member of the Board. This distinction gives him a unique and vital perspective. “When I joined this organization, the first thing I recognized and appreciated is that it is totally independent. It does not operate under a higher entity. This allows them to quickly make decisions and adjustments to address any situation that comes up. If there is a problem – they fix it and so everything moves smoothly. Also, the organizers are breeders for many years and bring that perspective to their roles with in the board. The last and most important thing I have come to appreciate about the Breeders World Cup is the absolute integrity they have in running the show. This makes it the most important show in America and even the world. This is the one, and only, true World Cup and I very proud  - honored – to be a part of it.”

Without equal, the Breeders World Cup is the event for breeders to gather. Big breeders, small breeders, it does not matter. Everyone is welcome and everyone has a chance to showcase their horses and to share their insights about how to create beautiful Arabian horses. Often, it is the owners and trainers who are in the spotlight – the small breeder with big dreams, the one who made the sacrifice and investment that created a foal are all but forgotten. However, not at the World Cup. Here, the breeders are celebrated and held in highest regard.

Some of this year’s big winners that were bred by small breeders include the Gold Champion Junior Mare, Elle Flamenca. She was bred by Markelle Arabians, owned by Joel Desmarteau of Georgia. Joel has an eye for beauty and great Arabian horses. He certainly struck gold when he bred Ajman Moniscione to Allamara MA (Marwan Al Shaqab x RA Miss Saigon), a mare he also bred. The result was Elle Flamenca, a beautiful chestnut filly with enough beauty and charisma to win gold in any show ring in the world.

Another big winner, bred by a small breeder was the Silver Champion Junior Mare, Pitonisa AS, bred by Lisa Markley and Leanne Reel. Lisa Markley is a longtime horsewoman who is well respected for her abilities as a breeder and an amateur handler. Pitonisa AS has been extremely successful in the American show ring. It was really nice to see Lisa join Pitonisa’s owners, the Arabian Soul Partners and handler, Sandro Pinha in the group photo celebrating the filly’s win.



I have been in the Arabian horse business now for more than 30 years. It seems impossible for time to go so quickly. Over those years, I have seen some breathtaking horses and I have met some incredible people. Attending the World Cup can be a bit like a family reunion, especially when you are able to see people you’ve know for such a long time, they seem like family.

This year’s World Cup was unique in many ways. People really had fun and their energy was so positive. I believe this was due to all the new people who attended the show - many of whom are also new to the breed and were participating as part of a group of partners. Sharing the excitement of competition makes it all the more fun. The Gold Champion Junior Stallion, Titan AS, is owned by the Arabian Soul Partners. You can barely see the horse in the win photo because of all of his supporters. This fun-loving group is very international with members from around the world.

Jeff Sloan is an owner and breeder with a passion for the Arabian horse. He is the Chairman of the AHBA Board of Directors and was instrumental in establishing the organization as well as the Breeders World Cup show. Jeff has used his business skills to create dynamic partnerships and to bring many new people into the Arabian horse community. Jeff and his partners celebrated the wins of their World Cup champions including the Gold Champion Yearling Filly, Aria Athena; Bronze Champion Junior Filly, Aria Qatars Angel; Silver Champion Junior Stallion, Truest and the breathtaking Gold Champion Senior Mare RH Triana.



When the Arabian Breeders World Cup was first established, the hope was for it to become an exciting, glamorous, and inviting venue for breeders and owners from around the globe to gather. It was dream that has come true and a vision that has come to life. The flag ceremony opening the Sunday championships was a colorful and moving experience and it illustrated the scope of international participation at the event. 

You could feel the closeness of the people as they celebrated this magnificent creature. It made us truly feel that our lives, the lives of our horses, the past, the present and the future are woven together just as tightly as the fabric of the flags held so proudly by each nation’s representative.

At the Breeders World Cup, an extra effort is made to acknowledge the breeders of the horses. It’s just one more way the show organizers can fulfill their goal to encourage breeders who dedicate their resources to benefit the Arabian horse. The AHBA and breeders Murray and Shirley Popplewell publicly acknowledge those people who have made a significant contribution to the breed through the Ambassador Award. This year’s recipient was our beloved friend and mentor - Sheila Varian.

This incredible woman has dedicated more than 50 years of her life to breeding
Arabian horses. Sheila and her horses have touched the lives of thousands. It would be a heroic effort to count the number of horses, generation by generation, that are linked to Sheila Varian and her breeding program. Sheila’s influence is concentric. It expands each time a foal is born whose ancestors trace to the magical “V”, for Varian.

Thanks to Sheila Varian, there are more beautiful Arabian horses in the world today, as well as more people enjoying them. Sheila truly is a world-class ambassador and certainly deserving of this award!

Another goal of the World Cup has always been to elevate the integrity of our breed in and out of the show ring. Chris and Sonya Bickford are longstanding and highly respected members of the Arabian horse community. Each year, they sponsor the ABWC Handler of Excellence Award, which is presented to the handler of the show who the judges select as demonstrating the highest level of sportsmanship and professionalism in the ring. This year’s award was presented to Ted Carson.

A special event took place during this year’s Breeders World Cup. The IntArah Dream Embryo Auction was held on Saturday night at the South Point Resort and Casino. The IntArah Dream Embryo Auction included 18 unborn foals sired by the breed’s leading stallions, and out of the breed’s best producing mares. In addition, six embryo rights to some of the most elite Arabian mares in the world were offered as well. The first IntArah Dream Embryo Auction was held in Brazil in 2011. This year’s auction was produced and managed by Luciano Cury, Mario Zerlotti and Greg Knowles. The Auction raised a total of $1,450,000.00 and had an average sale price of $60,400.00 per lot. An Embryo Right to one of the most celebrated and beloved Arabian mares of our time, RH Triana was the high selling consignment at $200,000. Congratulations to all who participated and the very best wishes for your success.



The 2015 Arabian Breeders World Cup will be a show many of us will never forget. However, one of the best things about the World Cup is that each and every year, there is something new, something bigger and better than ever before. This year, the entire venue was transformed into the most beautiful, elegant space ever seen at an Arabian horse show.

Next year, the 2016 Breeders World Cup will celebrate its 10th Anniversary! Plans are already underway to make it an unforgettable experience and the best World Cup ever.

Save the dates of April 14-17, 2016. Book your flight, reserve your room, and plan to have the time of your life. Continue to watch for updates and news on the show’s official website at:

We look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas!


View the complete story and photo coverage of the 2015 Arabian Breeders World Cup

2015 Arabian Breeders World Cup photo layout