Photography unless stated by Lysa Roman
Lead Photograph: Da Vinci FM
Nestled off the main road between Scottsdale and the picturesque Cave Creek, Arizona, Gemini Acres Equine is a world-renowned breeding farm whose horses have truly put them on the global map. Visiting during the frenetic pace of the Scottsdale All-Arabian Horse Show in February, the farm provided a place of calm, where beautiful Arabians can be found at every turn. Our focus, in particular, was on their two leading sires – 17 year old Da Vinci FM and the young stud, JJ Bellagio. Gemini Acres partners, Jim and Sally Bedeker, are crossing their Da Vinci daughters with Bellagio – with remarkable results.
It was back in the 1980s that Jim and Sally Bedeker first fell in love with the Arabian horse. As part of the boom in the United States Arabian horse industry at that time, the couple enjoyed much success originally with performance horses but then moved on to halter. Their breeding programme also thrived at this time – the suffix ‘GA’ swiftly became synonymous with quality, movement and beauty. Perhaps their most famous export over recent years has been the exotic stallion, Van Gogh AM (Magnum Psyche x Ynazia CF), now owned by Al Mohamadia Stud in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This bay stallion has won countless titles on two continents and he was bred by Gemini Acres. Then there is the UK Leading Sire, Master Design GA (Versace x BEA Society Belle), and these are just two examples of the many horses that have come from this tremendous breeding programme.
|Da Vinci M © Lori Ricigliano|
Sharing their time between their farms in Cave Creek, located just outside Scottsdale, and in Illinois, Gemini Acres Equine has certainly bred an incredible number of horses since they first began in the 1980s. Their history is a rich one, and the horses that can be found there excel in halter, and could easily do the same in performance. The farm is run with the support and knowledge of Taylor Mason, the managing partner at Gemini. Taylor’s father, Scot Mason, is himself an expert in the Arabian horse industry and is also a partner at Gemini. Taylor’s energy and enthusiasm has definitely given a fresh lease of life to Gemini Acres.
During my visits to the farm – one private, one for an open house – I was lucky enough to see a variety of pure-bred Arabian horses. Very much at the centre of these visits was the grand stallion, Da Vinci FM, as well as the younger super sire, JJ Bellagio. The aim of many a breeding programme is to breed a beautiful collection of broodmares of different damlines but by one stallion, that can then be bred on to another special stallion, and this is something that Gemini Acres has been aiming for. During my time at the farm, I was able to see the results of JJ Bellagio over the daughters of Da Vinci FM – and the results are impressive.
First, a little on the stallions themselves. Sired in 1999, Da Vinci FM is a son of the late, and great, Versace (Fame VF x Precious as Gold by El Shaklan) and is out of Full Moon Astar (Yaha Matuk x Amurath Astoria by Rohara Samurai). Da Vinci is her most famous son, and at 17 years of age, he looks happy and settled with his life at Gemini. At the end of 2014, Da Vinci’s stud book closed and Taylor tells me that this year, this famous bay stallion has relaxed into his life – which consists of covering the Gemini Acres mares, and spending the days in grass paddocks, watching the activities of the farm around him.
Da Vinci FM was bred by Cathy Murphy-Wright, now Cathy Murphy-Economy, and recognising his potential, Sally and Jim purchased him in the late 2000s to add to their stallion herd. Shown lightly, Da Vinci’s success in the show-ring includes Scottsdale Champion and Reserve Champion in the open classes, two Reserve National Champion Stallion titles, Scottsdale International Silver Champion Stallion, and Region 7 Champion Stallion. At both presentations, Da Vinci closed the show and quite simply, this stallion is captivating. Everything about him is so defined, from his huge eye, great limbs, incredible expression, and terrific movement. Watching Da Vinci is like looking at an Old Master – he is a classic, an old horse in a modern world, and he brings so much. Even those that have seen Da Vinci time and time again never tire of seeing him – he is truly exceptional and his progeny more than speak for themselves. This is the horse that, if I had to choose, I would jump on bareback and race across the desert on. He is powerful, gentle, vibrant, inquisitive, and captivating, all combined in one amazing package. When you look at him, you have a sense of majesty, just the way that it should be with these special old stallions.
As for JJ Bellagio, he is a more flamboyant stallion, thus complementing the solidity of the senior stallion perfectly. Foaled in 2007, JJ Bellagio is a flashy chestnut sired by Magnum Psyche (Padrons Psyche x A Fancy Miracle), a sire that needs no introduction, and is out of Joyeuse NY (RSC Carhif x Florenx NY), a mare with much old Polish breeding. JJ Bellagio has shone as a sire over recent years and the success of his progeny in the show-ring has made people sit up and take notice.
During the main presentation, Bellagio preceded Da Vinci and it was apparent that, while looking at a modern style horse, Bellagio has very old breeding in his pedigree, not the modern lines that we are so used to seeing with Marwan Al Shaqab (Gazal Al Shaqab x Little Liza Fame) or his paternal half-brother, WH Justice (ex Vona Sher-Renea). Instead, with Bellagio’s parents being born in 1995 and 2000 respectively, this stallion offers something a little bit different to other breeding programmes. While the Magnum Psyche influence in Bellagio is clearly evident, this expressive young stallion is doing a great job as a sire, as seen in show-rings around the world. The black colt Artemas GA (ex Duchess of Marwan by Marwan Al Shaqab), for example, was champion yearling colt at both Scottsdale and Las Vegas last year and later went World Top Ten for owners Stella Bella Arabians. Meanwhile, while IJ Bellatore (ex TR Scarlet Ginger by Om El Bandeiras), owned and bred by Taylor Ranch Arabians, won his international class at Scottsdale last year and was Silver Champion Yearling Colt at the inaugural US Open in Central Park, New York, last September.
As for the cross of JJ Bellagio over the Da Vinci FM daughters; the partners at Gemini Acres describe it as “Arabian type personified’, and they are not far wrong. Certainly, they are breeding a new look of Arabian horse, and one that offers much in the way of quality. During the presentations, we would see some results of this cross, and the results are already proving to be noteworthy.
First, we see some yearlings. The chestnut filly Bella Goddess SBA (JJ Bellagio x Goddess of Da Vinci by Da Vinci FM) is the first foal bred by Stella Bella Arabians, and she is owned by Gemini Acres Equine. A smooth and stretchy flashy chestnut, Bella Goddess has great carriage and is a charming filly. Then follows a grey, Gemini Acres beautiful homebred filly, Exquisite GA (JJ Bellagio x Cinderalla by Da Vinci by Da Vinci FM), who was quite extraordinary as a foal. Tall and with a lovely eye, Exquisite GA has a great neck and free movement.
Moving on to the two-year olds, the special Escada RA (JJ Bellagio x Bint Ynazia GA by Da Vinci FM) follows, a bay who is very special indeed. Bred by Gemini Acres and owned by Rapture Arabians, Escada is beautiful, expressive, soft, feminine, and flamboyant. She truly is a joy to watch and is a great example of the cross of Bellagio with Da Vinci. Following Escada is the very smart bay colt, D Angelo, sired by JJ Bellagio and out of Dark Angel GA (Da Vinci FM x OFW Dark Geena). Champion Yearling Colt at Region 1 last year, this young colt has big shoes to fill, being the next male in line.
|Satin Doll GA|
Bella Goddess SBA’s full sister, Satin Doll GA, was the next to be presented. This three-year-old filly is my favourite of them all, being a bright chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail. Exceptionally pretty, this beautiful filly is very well put together and I look forward to seeing more of her in the future. Satin Doll is the last cross of Bellagio and Da Vinci that we see before the stallions themselves, and she certainly underlines the potency of this mix.
Talking to Taylor later, he tells me that they have bred a Bellagio daughter to Da Vinci, and that the results are just as incredible. With JJ Bellagio only having been at Gemini Acres for three years, they are now only just being able to breed the next generation of his foals, but Taylor, Scot and the Bedekers are thrilled with the results.
|2016 colt JJ Bellagio x Divine Destinee GA|
Taylor also tells me that the breeding programme as it looks today at Gemini Acres has been in place for nine years. Set in 11 acres, with around 40 mares owned by the farm and 20 foals due this year, there is much to see and enjoy. Over the course of my visits, I also see Envy C (Enzo x Silken Sable), a nine-year-old full sister to the world famous stallion Eden C. Envy is a more compact and powerful version of her brother and she is due to JJ Bellagio – that should be an interesting foal indeed. We also see her two-week-old filly foal, born by embryo transfer, by Bellagio, and interest in her is high. Another nine-year-old chestnut mare is Divine Destinee GA, a full sister to Ames Charisma (Magnum Psyche x Ames Mirage), shown with a Da Vinci FM colt at foot. Bella Soleil GA (JJ Bellagio x Marwan du Soleil) also stands out, an as yet unshown two-year-old chestnut filly with very clean lines. Finally, Claudiaa (Psytadel x RA Cool Elygance) must be mentioned. A Belgium National Champion, this 14-year-old bay mare was very much ahead of her time in terms of just how extreme and exotic she is. She, too, is due to Bellagio later this year.
2016 filly JJ Bellagio x OFW Dark Geena.
Of the foals that we see, there is both a full brother and a full sister to Artemas GA – and the filly is especially haughty and showy! They must breed strong fillies at Gemini Acres as a 10 day old filly, a full sister to D Angelo, is also very bold! It will be interesting to see these foals mature over the coming months.
This feature offers merely an overview of Gemini Acres Equine, and the impact that two extraordinary stallions are having on their breeding programme. This farm has such a detailed and rich history, it almost seems wrong to focus on just a small element of all that they have achieved. But this cross of Da Vinci FM and JJ Bellagio is one that all involved in the farm very much believe in, and this is their future. The foals and youngstock certainly offer something different, and there is much quality to be found in this peaceful part of Arizona.
The tranquillity that can be found at Gemini Acres Equine is certainly special – nearly as special as the superstar horses that can be found as you walk the barns, and perhaps discover your own dream Arabian horse. Where will you dreams take you?
|Taylor with the mares (left to right): Claudiaa, Envy C, Isadora TM.|