Windfields Farm

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Windfields Farm
Former type Horse breeding/Racing Stable
Industry Thoroughbred Horse racing
Predecessors National Stud of Canada
Founded 1936
Founders Edward Plunkett Taylor
Defunct 2009
Headquarters Oshawa, Ontario
Canada, Canada
Key people 1) Edward Plunkett Taylor,
founder (1936–1980)
2) Charles P. B. Taylor, operator/owner (1980–1997)
3) Noreen Taylor & Judith Taylor Mappin
owner/operators (1997–2009)

Hall of Fame Trainers:
Gordon J. "Pete" McCann
Horatio Luro
Macdonald Benson
Divisions Chesapeake City, Maryland, United States

Windfields Farm was a six square kilometre (1,500 acre) thoroughbred horse breeding farm founded by businessman E. P. Taylor in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

Origin[edit]

The first stable and breeding operation of E. P. Taylor originated with a property near the city of Toronto known as Parkwood Stable when it was owned by Colonel Sam McLaughlin of McLaughlin Automobile fame. The property was purchased by Taylor and became known as The National Stud of Canada until he sold it and bought a new property in Oshawa he called Windfields Farm in honor of his first great champion. As population growth overtook the operation, it eventually expanded to include a second farm in Chesapeake City, Maryland, United States.

The Northern Dancer legacy[edit]

Most influential sire of the 20th century[edit]

Windfields Farm in Ontario is the birthplace of racing great and champion sire Northern Dancer, winner of the 1964 Kentucky Derby, in stakes record time, the Preakness Stakes, and the Queen's Plate. Retired from racing after the 1964 racing season, he went on to an even more brilliant career at stud. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association states that Northern Dancer is "one of the most influential sires in Thoroughbred history,"[1] and the Daily Racing Form calls Northern Dancer the most influential sire of the 20th century. .[2] Northern Dancer is also regarded as the 20th century's best sire of sires.[3]

Led by Northern Dancer, in the 1960s Windfields Farm earned more prize money than any other stable in North American Thoroughbred racing. Windfields bred Northern Dancer's sons Nijinsky, Secreto, and The Minstrel, all of whom won England's most prestigious race, the Epsom Derby.

In 1968 a barn fire at the Maryland division resulted in the death of thirteen horses who had just arrived from the Canadian farm. Included in the horses that died were twelve mares, three of which were in foal to Northern Dancer and one to Nearctic.[4]

Northern Dancer spent most of his years at stud at the Maryland division which also became home to other sires such as Dancer's Image and Assert. A national icon in Canada, Northern Dancer died in 1990 at Windfields' Maryland farm but was returned to his birthplace in Oshawa for burial.

$1 million stud fee and world record offspring prices[edit]

Between 1974 and 1988, twelve times Northern Dancer yearlings led the Keeneland July Selected Yearling Sale by average price. In the 1983 Keeneland Sales horse auction, one of Windfields' colts, that would eventually be named Snaafi Dancer, became the first $10 million yearling. In 1984 his twelve yearlings sold for an unrivalled sale-record average of price of US$3,446.666.[5]

In the 1980s, Northern Dancer's stud fee reached US$1 million, an amount four to five times his rivals and a record amount that as at 2009 has not been equalled.[6]

Horses owned by Windfields Farm have won eleven Queen's Plate races, as well as the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Their horses have won the Canadian Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing twice, in 1959 and 1963. Windfields Farm and/or E. P. Taylor bred a world-record 48 champions and 360 stakes winners.[7]

Operations: 1980–2009[edit]

In 1980 E. P. Taylor was incapacitated by a stroke and his son Charles took over management of Winfields Farm. E.P. Taylor died in 1989 but Charles died in 1997 after which his widow Noreen and sister Judith Taylor Mappin took charge of the business. The Maryland division was sold in 1988[8] and Rowland Farm and the Northern Stallion Station occupy the land.

The downsizing that began following the death of E. P. Taylor resulted in large portions of Windfields Farm being sold to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College, which erected sports fields and parking lots on the farm's southeast corner. Farmlands on the east side of Simcoe Street are now housing developments. By 2008, the once vast estate that at its peak was home to more than 600 Thoroughbreds, had devolved to just a small private farm.[9] In November 2009 the Windfields Farm breeding operations were wound up. Its broodmares and weanlings were sent to be auctioned at the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society Winter Mixed Sale[10] and its remaining bloodstock was sold at the Keeneland Sales in Lexington, Kentucky. Shortly afterwards the contents of the farm, literally to the bare walls, was auctioned, and the property was effectively abandoned.

Already engulfed by urban sprawl, Windfields sold much of the non-core portions of the property to real estate developers for the purpose of residential development. Some of the farm's historic barns, the grave of Northern Dancer, plus a trillium forest where fifteen horses are interred, was reported to be preserved as a commemorative park, but as of the fall of 2012, these plans remain unfulfilled, and the future of the property and its historic structures and graves remains in a state of confusion.

To the disappointment of many there appears that there were no firm plans put in place by the Taylor family, Durham College or UOIT before the final closure of the farm in order to ensure its preservation.

Post closure disrespect, community action, forward progress[edit]

After the farms closure much of the earlier promised preservation and respect of the property failed to materialize, the property, buildings, and graves left instead to fall into a state of decay and disrepair. Pictures began to appear of the grave sites of world famous Northern Dancer and other notable Windfields horses with tall weeds surrounding them, as well as the historical structures covered in overgrowth. The property and its many historical buildings had begun falling prey to vandals, the elements, and time.

A small band of supporters who were disappointed in the apparent near abandonment of the property (and what appeared to be a dismal future for its historical structures) began to advocate for the property in late 2009, with efforts beginning in earnest in 2010. The media was contacted and several stories were published in both local television and print media during 2010, 2011, and 2012, as well as a feature article in the Toronto Star newspaper entitled "Hero Racehorse Rests Amongst The Weeds", taking focus at the dismal condition and lack of respect for the farm and its famous horses now interred there, most notably, Northern Dancer. In addition, presentations were made to Oshawa City Council and a letter writing campaign was also enacted, all of which served to bring the situation to a better state of public awareness.

The negative media attention garnered from the fall of 2011 Toronto Star article spurred the current owners of the "Core" property (Durham College and/or The University Of Ontario Institute of Technology, UOIT) to step up maintenance of the gravesite areas and pledge to better respect the property, although no other commitments were made towards the future of the property at that point in time. However, a basic level of respect and maintenance had been returned, which constituted forward progress.

In the fall of 2012 the City Of Oshawa became an ally to the cause for proper respect for the Windfields Farm property and its legacy, and at the behest of the city, UOIT has agreed to form a "Community Advisory Group" to allow all interested parties to discuss the future of the farm in detail. The situation began to improve as UOIT began to exhibit a willingness to show the Windfields Farm legacy the respect it deserved.

During 2013 grounds maintenance was stepped up including routine grass cutting and a general cleanup of overgrowth in the vicinity of the core buildings. Many repairs and changes were effected to the property and its buildings as well during the 2012 to 2014 period, including the following:

  • Several buildings received roofing repairs (including an entire re-shingling of Barn 6) intended to halt water damage that was causing rapid deterioration of several of the historic structures on the property.
  • The heating systems in several of the remaining houses in the vicinity of the core were repaired and returned to service.
  • Eavestroughs, lightning rods, and other metalwork on various buildings that had been stolen by scrap metal thieves during previous years were replaced.
  • Security patrols were increased dramatically.
  • Electricity was restored in many areas.
  • Lighting was installed.
  • Security cameras were installed in strategic locations around the property.
  • Various buildings, the arena, and barns, many of which had been left unsecured for many years, were once again secured.
  • Pumping systems that had failed, causing subsequent flooding of some areas, were restored to operational condition.

In the late summer of 2014 the public was once again welcomed to the farm during "Doors Open Oshawa", a city-wide event which allows the public to visit venues which are normally closed to public access. This was the first time since the post-closure auction in 2009 that the public was able to legally access and visit the core property area of Windfields Farm to experience the property, its historic structures, and to pay their respects at the graves of Northern Dancer and the other horses interred at the main gravesite. The event was well attended, with many attendees noting the shuttle busses used to transport people to and from the core of the farm were standing room only. The core of the farm showed a dramatic turnaround from previous years with the grounds (and gravesite area) appearing well kept, and the repair efforts (basic and otherwise) on the many historical core buildings being evident to those who had followed their plight. Respect had once again been returned to the graves of the famous horses interred upon the grounds, and the legend and legacy of the farm appeared to be on the path towards receiving the respect it so deserves.

Although many of the historical buildings still showed areas of concern, it appears the preservation efforts and repairs made to date have at least halted further deterioration of the buildings.

During the doors open event it was shared that the University has begun exploratory meetings and discussions with regards to fundraising to allow further repairs to the buildings, barns, and the arena. The roadmap ahead with regards to the intended usage of the core of the farm remains somewhat unclear, but it appears efforts to make the property more publicly accessible in the future were underway, a great step towards allowing the public more routine access to visit the farm and revere in its history.

Burials at Windfields Farm[edit]

A non-exhaustive list of thoroughbred burials at Windfields Farm in Oshawa include:

Numerous other lesser-known horses are buried at the separate "Trillium" gravesite located slightly to the north of the core of the farm. The status of this gravesite is in question due to its location which will soon border on residential development taking place on former Windfields Farm property.

Lesser yet known horses were also commonly buried at various other places on the once vast Windfields property, almost all in unmarked graves.

Windfields Estate[edit]

Windfields Estate was the home of E. P. Taylor and was situated at 2489 Bayview Avenue in North York, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto. It now houses the Canadian Film Centre, founded by filmmaker, Norman Jewison. The 10 hectares (25 acres) estate has been preserved as a heritage site.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°57′13.9″N 78°53′56.5″W / 43.953861°N 78.899028°W / 43.953861; -78.899028