07/07/2005 11:00PM

Fate handed Windways a Plate winner


It seems it was meant to be that Desert Radiance was going to produce a Queen's Plate winner for breeder Jeff Begg and his family's Windways Farm.

On two occasions, Begg tried to sell Desert Radiance, a stakes-winning Desert Wine mare, at auction, and both times he bought her back, unhappy with the bids he was getting for her.

On June 26, Desert Radiance's seventh foal, Wild Desert, won the 146th Queen's Plate and is going to be odds-on to win the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie, on July 17.

"The funny thing is, when I bought her, my wife [Annabel] fell in love with her," said Begg, whose farm is in King Township, Ontario. "Every time we tried to sell her, she'd say, 'You can't sell her for that.' "

Wild Desert is the second Plate winner bred by the Begg family, coming nine years after Victor Cooley, a son of Cool Victor, won the 1996 Plate.

Begg, whose breeding program includes selling almost all of his foals at auction as weanlings, purchased Desert Radiance in 1997 for $92,000 in foal to Rhythm.

A California-bred, Desert Radiance won six races in 28 career starts, including the Tiffany Lass Stakes as a 3-year-old, and earned more than $107,000. She was also third in the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Oaks.

"She was a very attractive mare with a good foot on her, and she had a [good] race record - graded stakes placed," said Begg. "I liked the Desert Wine part, too - that opened her up to be bred to anything."

Desert Radiance produced a Rhythm filly, Dalaika, in '98 - her third foal - and she became a minor winner in France.

Begg had little trouble selling the mare's foals, which were attractive and well-built. A French Deputy filly, Heide D., brought $57,000 as a weanling, and Easy Cruiser, by Awesome Again (a recent winner at Woodbine), brought $100,000 the next year from Frank Stronach.

After producing a Peaks and Valleys filly, Hot Desert, in 2001, Desert Radiance was sent to Adena Springs in Kentucky and the court of Grade 1 winner Wild Rush, whose first crop were yearlings that season.

"I really liked him; he was a nice horse," said Begg of Wild Rush. "But his 2-year-olds came out completely flat, so I tried to sell her in foal. I bought her back for $20,000."

Wild Desert didn't receive much attention at the Keeneland sale, and Begg let him go for $26,000.

Begg again tried to sell the mare in the fall of 2002 at the Woodbine mixed sale, in foal to Bold Executive. He wound up taking her home again when the bidding stalled at $16,000.

The Bold Executive foal, a filly named Kick'em Jenny, was bought as a yearling by trainer Greg De Gannes for $25,000, and the mare's 2004 foal, a Cat's at Home colt, sells July 18 at the Fasig-Tipton summer yearling sale.

The mare was barren this year, but is in foal to one of the hottest sires around - Northern Afleet, the sire of Afleet Alex.

Although Begg said he might enter the mare in another sale this fall, he realizes that fate played a big role in keeping her on his farm.

"I'm a firm believer that good racemares produce racehorses," he said. "We just stuck it out. You just figure something's got to happen."