The beginnings of legends are often humble, despite the fact that their endings are remembered for the ages. A peasant girl goes on to become a saint; a journey to return home becomes an Odyssey. And a black bay colt, born on a small farm in Canada, can rise to become one of the Arabian breed’s most noteworthy sires, and travel around the world to change the face of Arabian horse breeding in South Africa. That colt, on whom so many people’s dreams have pivoted, is Magic Dream.

Greg Knowles and Lisa Marklei have been the most instrumental people in Magic Dream’s life, to date. A few weeks after he was born, in 1992, Greg and Lisa traveled to JoAnne Campone’s farm in Chilliwick, British Columbia, to have a look at the colt. They were attracted by the promise of a colt sired by Ali Jamaal, who, at the time, had recently returned to Brazil. Jamaal was still basking in the glow of his 1990 U.S. National Champion Stallion title and his reputation as a breeding stallion was growing exponentially – North American breeders were eager to lay claim to one of his offspring already on the ground, because the exportation was going to limit breeding opportunities.  

When Knowles and Marklei saw Magic Dream, they knew instantly that he was exceptional. “The very first time I saw him, he absolutely took my breath away,” Marklei says. “He was obviously very, very special. ”Even at a few weeks old, Magic Dream exuded the confidence that sets great horses apart from good horses. As he bounced at the side of his mother, The Dreamspinner (by Aristo Kossak and out of the Gai Adventure daughter Myrilinan Acledo), Magic Dream proudly held his tail high, and his delicately curved ears and large eyes made lovers of Arabian type fall instantly under his spell.

Marklei and Knowles fell particularly hard for him and offered to buy him on the spot; or rather, they attempted to buy h i m . C a m p o n e knew what kind of colt she had on her hands, and she was not willing to sell. There were a number of reasons that the thought of Magic Dream stayed with Knowles and Marklei, whose training and sales centre, Arabian Expressions, was at that time located in Washington, within driving distance of Campone’s farm. His appearance captivated them, but they knew that the beauty of the colt went far beyond his fine type and boisterous attitude. “There weren’t that many offspring by Jamaal available,” Knowles says. “And I loved the fact that he had *Bask in his dam line, for the athleticism and the heart. I just knew he was special in a lot of ways, not only in his physical appearance, but in all the things that add up on my list to make a marketable horse.”

Knowing that this colt presented a unique opportunity, Knowles and Marklei didn’t give up – they got creative. They went to Campone with a new strategy that they hoped would appeal to her: a partnership. Campone agreed to the terms; she would own roughly half of the colt, and a group of individuals would share the other half. Knowles had worked out a concept for the partnership – each of the partners would get a breeding apiece, and more breedings would be sold outside the partnership to generate the money to pay for Magic Dream’s promotion.

 “We put the deal together and I knocked on the doors of my clients whom I thought would be interested and we put the Magic Dream partnership together,” Knowles says. About 17 people ended up owning 40 shares of the stallion. Knowles and Marklei also owned part of Magic Dream, but they took the most active role in the partnership by managing the stallion. When the partnership was finalized, Magic Dream’s career started in earnest. He was 2 years old at the time, and in his first breeding year, he covered about a dozen mares. Everyone was impressed when those foals hit the ground, but when they came into the public eye for the first time, a frenzy of interest sprang up. “The next year, we took those foals to Scottsdale, and there were a couple of really telling sort that happened with the babies that made him take off,” Knowles says. “There was a colt named Ali Bey, who was out of Bey Affair, a Bey Shah daughter. Jeff Little took a picture of this black bay weanling colt, and everybody who saw it went nuts.” Magic Dream was going to the U.S. National futurity that year, and Knowles was working on putting an advertisement together, with Denise Hearst at Arabian Horse World. “She asked if I had any pictures of his babies, and I sent this picture of Ali Bey. When she saw it, she said, ‘Greg, you’ve got to put this picture in the ad.’ ”According to Knowles, when countered that a picture of a foal wasn’t germane to the advertisement, Hearst said, “It doesn’t matter, just put it in the ad, in the corner.” The results were waiting for Knowles and Marklei when they returned home from the U.S. Nationals, where Magic Dream had been named Top Ten Futurity Stallion. “When we got home from the show, I had like 45 people wanting to breed to him, and I had about 10 wanting to buy Ali Bey.”

The subsequent flurry of breeding only grew as foals came out in public and reinforced their young sire’s growing reputation. “The following February, we took seven of his babies to the Scottsdale show and all seven were Top Ten,” Knowles says. “There were some really fun ones in that group, like Ali Bey, and Swete Dreams, the mother of QR Marc. We came out after the yearling filly class, and five out of the five fillies went Top Ten, and there were about 100 people standing there, applauding his fillies. I turned to Lisa and said, ‘I think the market just embraced this horse.’ And about 100 mares got booked.”

From Magic Dream’s first foal crop onward, it was obvious that he was going to set himself apart as a breeding horse, and, indeed, that was the trajectory that his career would take. He did make show ring appearances and earned accolades there, as well, including his U.S. and Canadian National Top Ten titles in 1995. “He didn’t have a big show career, but he had a fun one,”

Knowles says. “We had kind of hit a saturation point in his production, and we decided to re-light the candle.” During the 2000 show season, Magic Dream was in the show ring again. “We took him to the Buckeye, and he was champion stallion, and his son, Elusive Magic, out of Ericca, was reserve champion. I think that’s the only time that’s happened at the Buckeye – father and son taking champion and reserve.” Magic Dream also went to Scottsdale, where he won the senior stallion class, while his son QR Excel won his age group class. “That was the first time in the history of Scottsdale that there’s been a father and son in the front line at Scottsdale,” Knowles says. Both classes made it obvious that Magic Dream was that rare stallion who was both an exceptional  individual and a powerful progenitor of the most desirable traits. It was shortly before that return to the show ring that Francisca Strydom first saw Magic Dream, in 1999, during a visit to the U.S. He made an impression on her so profound that she says that her first thought of him was, “’This is what an Arabian Stallion should look like,’” she says. “He was strikingly beautiful, with loads of presence and charisma. Looking at him leaves you in awe – this is a truly spectacular Arabian stallion.”

Francisca’s take on Magic Dream echoes Knowles’ thoughts on Magic Dream. “To me, Magic Dream is spectacular, based on his total balance,” Knowles says. “If you draw him up, and you do the shape of neck and the ears, the eyes, the muzzle, the shoulder, the back and the hip – it’s almost flawless because of how balanced those elements are. Those features are extreme because they’re balanced, as opposed to a horse that has one extreme feature.”  It’s Magic Dream’s balance, his ability to bring together so many physical examples of excellence, that translates into strong breeding. “I think that’s the secret to his daughters – they are horses that have a strong foundation, strong conformation,” Knowles says. “They offer a lot of very high quality traits to very  famous stallions, and they produce good babies.” Another element, according to Lisa Marklei, is consistency. “He never changed,” she says. “You know how some young horses do? He never did. He’s proven himself and his daughters are going to go down in history as some of the most consistent, true breeding mares that there are.” Over the years, Magic Dream went from being the son of a wellknown stallion, Ali Jamaal, to being a brand of his own. That transition happened because of the dedication of Marklei and Knowles and the Magic Dream Partnership, but good marketing alone cannot make a horse – if breeders don’t see results, then all of the effort is for naught. But Magic Dream did impress breeders, siring champions like Miss Wallstreet, Latoura Dream, QR Excel and many others. As popular as his get were in North America, breeders all across the world were buying hem up and incorporating them into international breeding programs and show rings. Magic Dream’s success was so widespread that Knowles attributes the success of his business to the stallion. “As Babe Ruth built Yankee Stadium, Magic Dream built our farm,” Knowles says. “We were a couple, working hard being horse trainers, and this horse comes in our lives and people worldwide would knock on our door, from  Charlie and Shirley Watts to people from Mexico, Europe, South Africa – anywhere you can imagine – to see Magic Dream. To this day, no matter where I go, if I’m judging in Chile or Argentina or Germany, the second people hear Magic Dream’s name, they just go, ‘Wow!’ He’s become a worldwide icon.” That international exposure was the key to the new stage of Magic Dream’s life that is currently unfolding. A number of his get had made their way to South Africa, where they quickly swept up numerous national championships and grabbed the attention of the country’s top breeders. Francisca Strydom, having seen Magic Dream in the flesh, knew what an impressive horse he was. Seven years after she saw him, her husband Tinus was able to meet Magic Dream, too. “As Magic Dream was well-known in South Africa, mainly because of the success of his offspring in our country, I was eager to see him,” Tinus says. “He really impressed me the first time I saw him, but I never considered that we would one day be in a position to own him.” The Strydoms, in anticipation of the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup coming to South Africa, wanted to find and bring home a stallion that would draw international visitors to their farm. “The Strydoms wanted a stallion of recognition,” Sandro Pinha says. But that stallion had to be more than a one-time draw – Tinus Strydom says that the horse had to be “a proven stallion, a sire of significance, to be the mainstay of our breeding program.” The Strydoms considered a number of options and consulted with experts like Pinha and Rodolfo Guzzo. “One day when we were driving in Scottsdale with Sandro, I asked him what his thoughts were,” Tinus says. “The more we debated the issue – taking into consideration the attributes of the individual, as well as his success as a sire, coupled with the worldwide demand for his offspring, especially his daughters – the more evident it became that Magic Dream would more than adequately meet our requirements.”

Pinha arranged for the Strydoms to see Magic Dream. That visit only solidified what they already felt about the horse. “He’s not only a proven stallion but his daughters are proven broodmares,” Pinha says. “When you’ve got a horse that is the grandsire of QR Marc, Mardi Gras, Marcedes, just to name a few, that’s a horse that will add a lot to South Africa’s breeding programs, not only for the Strydoms, but for everyone. ”They knew that this was the stallion for them, and Pinha struck up a deal with the Partnership for the Strydoms to buy Magic Dream. At the time, Greg Knowles owned 51 percent of Magic Dream. “For me, it took a certain person and a certain scenario for me to want to do this,” he says. “So when Tinus and Francisca approached me, it was like, ‘Absolutely.’ I was thrilled.” Knowles had been to South Africa to show Magic Dream get, so he knew from firsthand experience how much respect Magic Dream commanded. “He’s a rock star in South Africa and these are great people. I just couldn’t be more excited about his future.” The Strydoms are looking forward to expanding on Magic Dream’s successes. “For Magic Dream, moving to South Africa will certainly prove to be a new lease on life,” Tinus says. Whereas in the U.S. he hasn’t been bred as much as he should have been over the past few years, here he will be bred to the best mares in the country.” He notes that news of the purchase and importation has been met with a lot of excitement. “For the South African Arabian horse community, this represents an exceptional opportunity to breed to a world renowned sire.  We were pleasantly surprised with the interest from leading South African breeders, most of whom have booked breedings to Magic Dream. The forthcoming breeding season, from October to February, is a very important one for us, and in addition to the breedings that were purchased by other breeders, many of the Strydom Stud’s mares are waiting to be bred to him.”With the top mares from the top breeders being sent to Magic Dream, his reputation as a sire and as a grandsire will undoubtedly continue to flourish. “This will ensure that the world will have access to top quality brood mares for the future,” Tinus says. Lisa Marklei, who built up an strong emotional bond with Magic Dream says that it was difficult to see him go out of her life, but that she is glad to know that he is going to a new home where he will be so valued. “South Africa has absolutely embraced Magic Dream,” she says. “I think his impact there has been strong, and I think it will be even stronger. He’s going to make his contribution and I’m happy for that.” Sandro Pinha has no doubts about what Magic Dream’s contribution will mean for South Africa. “He will be the most important horse in South Africa, and not only for the Strydoms,” Pinha says. “He will be the
leader.”      
 
  

 
 



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