Historic Windfields Farm in Oshawa, Ontario, birthplace of Northern Dancer built by industrialist E.P. Taylor, was liquidated in a public auction on Saturday March 6.
In its heyday, the property was home to over 600 Thoroughbreds over 1400 acres. 1964 Kentucky Derby and Queen's Plate winner Northern Dancer, a homebred by Nearctic out of Natalma, both Taylor stakes winners, went on to sire 146 stakes winners and appears in the pedigrees of about 90% of modern Thoroughbreds, through such sons as 1970 English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky II, Danzig, Storm Bird, and Sadler's Wells. Taylor suffered a stroke in 1980 and passed away in 1989, as son Charles took over the day-to-day operations of the business until his own death to cancer in 1997. Noreen Taylor, Charles' widow, and the rest of the Taylor estate wound down operations leading to the sale of their last breeding stock at Keeneland November 2009. Over the last few years, pieces of the property have already been sold off to developers, with Tribute Communities developing areas for residential use, and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Durham College installing athletic facilities in others.
On Saturday, an estimated 5,000 people crowded the farm for the auction. Although some serious buyers (over 1200 bidding numbers were given out) came looking for bargains on farm equipment or furniture, others shopping for memorabilia, most came just to see Northern Dancer's grave, as the farm was always closed to the public and this was the only opportunity for people to see the farm as it had been, without an appointment. Paddocks that were once grazed by horses were used as parking lots, which quickly filled up by the scheduled 9:30am start. Stallion stalls were used to showcase furniture, while equipment was sold in the main arena/breeding barn. The courtyard between buildings took on a carnival atmosphere, with smiling children accompanied by their parents saddened by the end of an era in Canadian history as they toured the equine cemetery. Surrounding Northern Dancer in the cemetary include Archer's Bay, Cat's At Home, Canadiana, Victoria Park, New Providence, Ascot Knight, Vice Regent, and Windfields, the first horse bred by E.P. Taylor and a multiple stakes winner.
There were 1800 lots up for bidding on Saturday. Most smaller items were sold by 3:00pm, leaving the larger items to be sold at the end of the day. The barns and paddock fencing are to be dismantled by buyers and moved elsewhere. Other items included signs, blankets, buckets, flak jackets, helmets, vet supplies, foal kits, tools, saddles, and just about anything you can imagine you would find on a large breeding farm. There were also a few things in the office that were auctioned like chairs and office furniture as well as 50 years of Daily Racing Form Chart Books. Many people were buying stuff just to have a souvenir to keep, especially items with the Windfields Farm logo.
Noreen Taylor said in an interview the week before the auction, "I miss the horses. I miss them as individuals. And, I miss seeing the babies. I used to love this season because there'd be a new baby born lots of days and I'd go out and watch. I'd go out in the middle of the night just to see a foaling. A birthing is magical. I miss turning up the main drive. I miss the apple orchard that used to be there. You shed a tear for the memories and things you won't be able to do anymore. And, yet I cannot go backwards, I have to be responsible. I hate the responsible part."
Judith Taylor Mappin, daughter of E.P. Taylor, said in August 2009, "What my father started has lasted far longer than anyone ever imagined. We have been so fortunate with our horses and our staff that we remained in the business we love for decades longer than expected. Now, with the older grandchildren beginning to face their own retirement plans, it is simply time to wind things up. Our horses have been so good to us, it was tough to let go."