Dec 17, 2009


Lost amidst the fuss about the Overbrook Farm dispersal at Keeneland was the whimpered final dissolution of the Windfields Farm of Ontario, Canada. There’s a certain irony in the fact that Overbrook owed its success to Storm Cat, a descendant of Windfields’ immortal Northern Dancer.

My one and only face-to-face meeting with Windfields founder E.P. Taylor came in the spring of 1970 during the annual convention of the Thoroughbred Racing Association in New Orleans. I was the a cub reporter for the local daily and set out to Fair Grounds to arrange an interview with the most powerful man in Canadian racing circles, and soon the world.

Taylor was a bit abrupt when I approached with my request.

“What do you want to talk to me about ?” he said somewhat gruffly.

“I’d like to hear your thoughts on whether Nijinsky can win the 2000 Guineas and perhaps the Triple Crown,” I said.

“Pull up a chair,” he commanded.

His demeanor shifted at once and he was at his voluble best for the next hour or so, extolling the virtues of his champion 2-year-old until he was called to a meeting.

Nijinsky went on to sweep the arduous English Triple Crown, a feat unmatched in the intervening four decades.

Meanwhile, I moved to the West Coast of Canada and was setting up shop for a bloodstock career, augmented with print and broadcast work.

Taylor had a friend in the whisky business in Vancouver who sought his counsel. Capt. Potter was his name and he needed someone to help run a training center which he had gotten stuck with by some shady characters.

Mr. Taylor told him to give me a call. I was flabberbgasted.

Soon thereafter I was track announcer for Capt. Potter at his hastily conceived quarter horse track called Meadow Creek Ranch. That and other Meadow Creek duties hastened my learning curve considerably.

Taylor and Northern Dancer went on to conquer the world. Taylor had a confidant in Joe Thomas who ran the Canadian operation, abetted by British agent George Blackwell.

Soon the entire Thoroughbred universe was awash in Northern Dancer blood. The Windfields team decided that they needed some new strains to infuse their broodmare band.

Chosen were two winners of the English Derby, Snow Knight and Master Willie. Both of them rolled “snake eyes”.

Snow Knight was an unfortunate choice in that he was a notorious rogue who needed a small army of assistant starters and a long buggy whip just to enter the starting gate. Horses that ill-mannered rarely succeed at stud.

Master Willie sired horses unsuitable for racing in North America and was soon forgotten.

The vagaries of Thoroughbred breeding were demonstrated anew at Windfields, only this time on a positive note. The full brothers Viceregal and Vice Regent entered stud at the Oshawa, Ontario nursery.

Viceregal bred books of mares that befit a juvenile champion. His brother had to content himself with the overflow.

Vice Regent became a leading sire, of course, while his illustrious kin was exiled to France where he faded into obscurity.

Over the years I have had the pleasure and privilege of seeing the great stallions in person. Except for Northern Dancer, more’s the pity