07/04/2008 12:00AM

Windfields to close commercial operation


Legendary Windfields Farm is closing its commercial doors after 72 years of serving the world's racing industry with some of the best bloodlines and horse care in the sport.

The Oshawa, Ontario, farm, which was the birthplace of the great Northern Dancer, will revert to being a family enterprise of breeding mares and racing foals as of Nov. 1.

"We are shutting down our stallion station and returning to a private farm," said Noreen Taylor, the vice president of Windfields. "The commercial nature, and the community of staff that goes with it, is coming to a close."

The farm currently stands four stallions and foaled 114 mares this spring for dozens of clients. Ten of the mares that produced foals are owned by Windfields.

Taylor's late husband, Charles, was the son of E.P. Taylor, who purchased the Windfields Farm property in 1950.

"Windfields is owned by a group of people," said Taylor. "In our case we need to have the flexibility to do realistic future planning, such as personal estates."

The farm is owned by the remaining members of the Taylor family: E.P.'s daughter Judith Mappin, Noreen Taylor, Charles's children Edward and Nadine, and Mappin's four children.

The continued growth of housing developments that have closed in around the farm in recent years is another reason for the change in direction.

In recent years, large portions of Windfields Farm's hay fields were sold to nearby Durham College in order to build sports parks.

And, in 2006, Windfields joined forces with Tribute Homes to construct the Neighbourhoods of Windfields housing development.

Taylor also noted that the effects of the newly revamped Horse Improvement Program, presented by the Ontario Racing Commission, will not be felt for some time.

"Windfields is very labor-intensive, very hands-on," said Taylor. "We have one staff member for every four horses, and the market just does not allow that right now.

"As HIP starts, the value of mares increases, and there will be a need for a high quality of stallions, but that is a few years away. We had to decide, do we have those years? I don't think those years are available."

In its heyday, Windfields was the birthplace of multimillion-dollar yearlings and many top stallions, including Vice Regent, one of Canada's all-time leading sires.

E.P. Taylor died in 1989, and in 1996 the farm had a dispersal and was left with two mares.

A year later, Charles Taylor died.

Since then, Noreen Taylor and the Windfields board of directors continued to maintain a full-service Thoroughbred establishment.

"I have spent most of my adult life associated with Windfields Farm," said Taylor. "I am enormously proud to have been part it, and I will miss the great horses but always have the memories. Now we will focus on breeding, racing, and selling our own horses."