Sunday, April 15, 2012

Guest Post: Save Windfields

by Kelsey Riley

For thoroughbred racing and breeding enthusiasts, E.P. Taylor’s Windfields Farm in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada is a place of major historic significance. Best known as the birthplace and resting place of Northern Dancer, Windfields was actually so much more. Founded in 1936, the famous farm has experienced nearly unprecedented success across the world. Its progenitors have won some of the world’s greatest races, including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Epsom Derby, 2000 Guineas, Irish Derby, King George, and Dewhurst Stakes. Windfields-breds have won Canada’s Queen’s Plate 11 times.

Windfields spawned 48 champions and 360 stakes winners that have won over 10,000 races for more than $84 million in prize money. Included amongst these horses are Northern Dancer, Nijinsky, The Minstrel, Storm Bird, El Gran Senor, Try My Best, Secreto, Shareef Dancer, Saint Ballado, Vice Regent, Victoria Park, and New Providence.

Windfields has also played an important role in shaping the bottom line of many of today’s thoroughbred pedigrees. Blue hen mares that have graced the Windfields paddocks include South Ocean (a daughter of New Providence, dam of Storm Bird and Northernette); La Lorgnette (Canadian Horse of the Year, dam of European champion Hawk Wing), and Glorious Song, multiple G1 winner and dam of leading sires Singspiel, Rahy, and Rakeen. Glorious Song was also a full-sister to Saint Ballado and Devil’s Bag.

Today, Windfields faces an uncertain future. The Taylor family, which had been downsizing the operation since the founder’s death in 1989, announced the closure of the commercial operation in the summer of 2008. The farm’s resident stallions were moved and clients dispersed, leaving just a few family owned horses on the fabled land. In 2009, Judith Mappin-Taylor, the then-80-year-old daughter of E.P. Taylor in charge of Windfields, announced the farm would auction off its remaining stock and close its doors forever.

The plan for Windfields was residential development. Located in the centre of a burgeoning university town, Windfields was already feeling the squeeze of development before its closure, and its land value was rising with each day it remained open. While the outskirts of the 1500 acre property have already begun to be developed, the “core” of the farm, including many historic buildings and the cemetery, was gifted to Oshawa’s Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, located near the farm. The plan was to preserve this area and develop it into a public space, perhaps a park. This is where the problem lies today. Three years after its closure nothing has been done with the area, and it is beginning to show signs of neglect. Until a recent wave of negative media attention prompted action, the Windfields cemetery, which includes the gravesite of Northern Dancer, was grown over with weeds. Nearby historic buildings, including the breeding shed and the barn in which Northern Dancer was born, are falling victim to the elements and lack of care.

A video produced by

Mark Morisette, a local Oshawa resident, has become the voice of the community that is concerned about the future of Windfields. Morisette recently launched a site dedicated to the preservation of the farm at The site has generated a strong following and has resulted in more than 300 letters of support being sent to the Oshawa City Council in support of the cause. In response, the city is calling the university to action, asking them to reveal their plans for the historic site. The city council is also moving to make the Windfields core a designated heritage site, which would allow it special protection against development. Representatives from Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology say they are in negotiations about what to do with Windfields.

While current actions are positive, support for the preservation of Windfields is still needed. Don’t let a major part of our industry’s history fade into obscurity. Visit to learn more and see what you can do to help.     

A recent news piece on the plight of Windfields

--Kelsey Riley is a second year trainee on the Darley Flying Start program. She will join the TDN staff in July.

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