11/16/2001 12:00AM

At $182k, Ahead by a Century 'a bit of a bargain'


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - While Ahead by a Century has made all of her 36 career starts here at Woodbine, she has taken a circuitous route to Sunday's Bessarabian Handicap.

Last week, Ahead by a Century was on the auction block at Keeneland, where she fetched $182,000 for her owner, Frank DiGiulio.

The buyer was Jeff Begg, of Ontario-based Windways Farm, and since Ahead by a Century had been nominated to the Bessarabian, she has found herself back at Woodbine with new trainer Malcolm Pierce and will make what probably will be her final start in the Grade 3 Bessarabian.

"Actually, I went down to the sale really looking to buy a mare in foal," said Begg. "I like to buy mares carrying their first foals.

"But what it came down to is I thought people were just paying a big premium for racemares. I looked at this mare, and liked her, and I thought she was a bit of a bargain compared to some of the other ones."

Ahead by a Century, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old, has recorded just one minor stakes win, taking the $59,200 Zadracarta over 6 1/2 furlongs on turf here in 1999. But she has raced consistently in top company, on both dirt and turf at distances ranging from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, placing in five other stakes and compiling a career record of five wins, six seconds, eight thirds, and earnings of $354,696.

"If she were to pop up and win Sunday, then I'm going to seriously consider whether we'd go another year with her," said Begg. "But in the back of my mind I'm thinking she's probably she's run enough, and it's time to head to the breeding shed."

Mighty partnership

There are seven broodmares at Windways, which is owned by Begg in partnership with his wife, Annabel, and father, Jim. The most illustrious of the band is Enchanted Spell, dam of 2-year-old filly Galadriel, who was sold at the select yearling sale here last year for $100,000 and is stakes winner this year for Kinghaven Farm.

Jeff Begg also was a buyer at that sale, acquiring a son of Tethra for $57,000, and sold an interest in the colt to Reg Quinn.

Named Mighty Quinn, with a nod to both his co-owner and to the Bob Dylan song, Mighty Quinn has earned $147,280 this year, winning the Frost King and finishing second in the Bull Page and Simcoe.

Mighty Quinn went to the farm following the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity, where he cut out the pace before weakening slightly to finish fifth, beaten 4 1/4 lengths.

"He had a great year," said Begg. "It would be nice if he'd learn to relax a little bit."

If Mighty Quinn learns to harness his speed his speed next year, then he could himself on the trail to the Queen's Plate. And that's a road the Beggs have been down before as their homebred, Victor Cooley, won the 1996 Plate en route to being voted Canada's outstanding 3-year-old male.

Dawn Valley a late-developer

Begg also is hoping for better things next year from Dawn Valley, a 2-year-old who has shown little in two starts for Windways and Quinn.

"He's just been a real slow horse to come around," said Begg. "He's a big horse; I think he's just going to take some time."

Dawn Valley, a gelding by Peaks and Valleys out of the Grey Dawn II mare, Dawnelo, is a half-brother to Dawn Watcher, who sold for $80,000 as a yearling and had a good campaign this year at age 3.

Mr. Epperson done for year

Mr. Epperson, one of the leading contenders for this year's Sovereign Award as outstanding sprinter, has gone to the farm and will not see action again this season.

A 6-year-old gelding trained by Scott Fairlie, Mr. Epperson wound up his campaign with a fourth-place finish in last Sunday's allowance prep for the Dec. 1 Kennedy Road Stakes.

"I thought the inside was brutal," said Fairlie, who also owns Mr. Epperson in partnership with his father, Robert; Brian Brolley; and Scott Marlowe. "He's probably a little bit tired, too."

Fairlie, concerned over the vagaries of the weather here late in the season, said Mr. Epperson would have to have "won big" last Sunday in order to remain in training for the Kennedy Road.

"This way, he gets a few extra weeks of grass while the grass is still green," he said.

Mr. Epperson, winner of the Nearctic and Play the King on the turf and the Highlander on dirt here this year, earned $430,180 with an overall record of five wins and a third from nine starts in 2001.

Sovereign media finalists named

The finalists for the media Sovereign Awards were named by the Jockey Club of Canada on Friday.

The finalists for feature article are Jennifer Morrison-Learn, Canadian Thoroughbred magazine; Eric Mitchell, The Blood-Horse; and Muriel Lennox, Gallop Magazine. Morrison-Learn is also a freelance contributor to Daily Racing Form.

The finalists in the newspaper category are Bob Summers, of The Buffalo News; Curtis Stock, Edmonton Journal; and Steve Simmons, Toronto Sun.

For photograph, the finalists are David Landry, Michael Burns Sr., and Larry Goulding. The Woodbine Entertainment Group, Vancouver's Tom Wolski, and Edmonton's DMB Productions are the film/video/broadcast finalists.

The winners will be announced Dec. 14.