Windfields Farm (Ontario)
|Horse breeding/Racing Stable|
|Industry||Thoroughbred Horse racing|
|Predecessor||National Stud of Canada|
|Founder||Edward Plunkett Taylor|
|Headquarters||Oshawa, Ontario, Canada|
|1) Edward Plunkett Taylor,
2) Charles P. B. Taylor, operator/owner (1980–1997)
3) Noreen Taylor & Judith Taylor Mappin
Hall of Fame Trainers:
Gordon J. "Pete" McCann
|Divisions||Chesapeake City, Maryland, United States|
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, Windfields Farm (Maryland) in Chesapeake City, Maryland, United States.
Windfields Farm in Ontario was 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. Northern Dancer was retired after the 1964 racing season and started a career at stud in Ontario, before being moved in 1969 to the Maryland Farm. Northern Dancer's son, the English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky, was also bred by E. P. Taylor at Windfields in Ontario as was another Northern Dancer colt, the 1977 Epsom Derby winner The Minstrel.
Decline and closure
In 1980 E. P. Taylor was incapacitated by a stroke and his son Charles took over management of Windfields Farm. E.P. Taylor died in 1989 and 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. 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 became 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. 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 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 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 remained unfulfilled, and the future of the property and its historic structures and graves remained in a state of confusion. 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.
After the farm's closure the planned preservation failed to materialize. The property, buildings and graves were 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 buildings had begun falling prey to vandals, the elements, and time.
A small group of supporters who were disappointed in the apparent near-abandonment of the property (and what appeared to be a dismal future for its 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 the famous horses 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 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.
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 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 citywide event which allows the public to visit venues which are normally closed to public access. This was the first time since the 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 heritage 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. 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 core buildings being evident to those who had followed their plight. Although many of the buildings still showed areas of concern, it appears the preservation efforts and repairs made to date had 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.
Burials at Windfields Farm
A non-exhaustive list of thoroughbred burials at Windfields Farm in Oshawa include:
- Archers Bay (1995–2002)
- Canadiana (1950–1971)
- New Providence (1956–1981)
- Northern Dancer (1961–1990)
- South Ocean (1967–1989)
- Vice Regent (1967–1995)
- Victoria Park (1957–1985)
- Windfields (1943–1969)
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 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.
Media related to 2489 Bayview Windfields House before CFC at Wikimedia Commons
- Kocher, Greg. "Northern Dancer's run: 2 minutes on the track, 50 years in Thoroughbred bloodlines". Lexington Herald Leader. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
- "Nijinsky II (Can)". American Classic Pedigrees. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
- "The Minstrel (Can)". American Classic Pedigrees. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
- Ormsby, Mary (November 6, 2009). "Last gallop for legendary Windfields Farm". The Star. Toronto.
- Friends Of Windfields Farm Facebook page
- Grave Matters: Windfields Farm at the National Sporting Library's Thoroughbred Heritage website
- Windfields Farm official website - Now defunct, no longer serves website
- Windfields Farm at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA)
- Major Stakes Winners/Champions bred by Windfields & E.P. Taylor