Edward Plunket Taylor, founder of internationally-renowned Windfields Farm of Oshawa, Ont., was the chief architect of the modern evolution of Canadian racing and breeding. In the early 1950s he reorganized the Ontario Jockey Club and was the driving force behind consolidating racing in the province, transforming a fragmented, inefficient “leaky-roof circuit” into one of the world’s elite racing centres – showcased by Woodbine Race Track. Taylor was Chairman of the Board and President of the OJC.
As an owner, breeder and builder, Taylor exerted a profound influence on thoroughbred racing and breeding worldwide. He was the first man to breed the winners of the Kentucky Derby, which he won with Northern Dancer in 1964, and the English Derby, with Nijinsky II (a son of Northern Dancer), which he sold as a yearling. Northern Dancer later gained international fame as the sire of the 20th Century.
Taylor was founder of the Jockey Club of Canada and a former president of the Thoroughbred Racing Association. He also was North America’s leading breeder 19 times and won an Eclipse Award. Horses he bred or owned won twenty-one runnings of the Queen’s or King’s Plate and more than a record 320 stakes races around the world.
Born in Ottawa in 1901, he attended McGill University and raced his first horses in 1936. Taylor was one of Canada’s legendary business leaders and was chairman of the Canadian Brewing Corporation and later Argus Corporation Limited. Taylor began racing in partnership with Jimmy Cosgrave in the 1930s, under the name of Cosgrave Stable. He purchased Windfields Farm, which later was engulfed by the sprawl of Toronto, and started National Stud on the site of the Colonel R.S. McLaughlin farm near Oshawa. The National Stud’s name was later changed to Windfields Farm. Taylor’s breeding operation also had a Maryland division.
Taylor had begun to build a financial empire in the early 1930s by buying up and consolidating the small, unprofitable companies that were common to the brewery business. In much the same way, Taylor would change racing in Ontario. Racing, like the brewing industry, was made up of unprosperous fragments. “Our sport wasn’t keeping up with the progress made in other areas,” Taylor said. “We had too many tracks… our patronage was falling, we had low purses, and many bad horses, and I was afraid that racing might die here as it did in Quebec.” Taylor’s plan was to consolidate the province’s fourteen individual 14-day racing franchises and concentrate Ontario thoroughbred racing in Toronto and Fort Erie; build a new Woodbine and improve facilities at the old Woodbine (later named Greenwood) and Fort Erie. By 1956, the OJC’s overhaul of Ontario racing was essentially complete and such familiar names as Stamford in Niagara Falls, Thorncliffe, Long Branch, Hamilton and Dufferin were gone.
When Woodbine was opened in 1956, it was considered a folly to have built the magnificent new track on the outskirts of Toronto in Rexdale. However, the city grew so much that Woodbine no longer was considered to be in an inconvenient location. As well as a flourishing thoroughbred circuit operating out of Woodbine, Greenwood and Fort Erie, the OJC also had at one time a strong harness racing circuit – at Greenwood, Mohawk in Campbellville and Garden City Raceway. That would be considered ample accomplishment for one man. But Taylor also bred and raced some outstanding horses besides Northern Dancer, a list that included Nijinsky II, The Minstrel, Viceregal, Vice Regent, Victoria Park, Nearctic and Canadiana. From 1960 to 1969 Taylor led North American breeders in races won and for two years was the leading money-winning breeder. He is the breeder of 178 stakes winners.
In 2013, a collection of memorabilia, trophies and photographs belonging to E. P. Taylor and Windfields Farm were provided by the Taylor family to the Canadian Museum of Civilization. An exhibit featuring some of these items opened in May of 2014.