Gravesite of horse racing legend and biggest sire to be integrated in Doors Open 2024 in Oshawa

Northern Dancer’s grave. Image by Glenn Hendry

The remaining resting location of 1 of Canada’s most famed sporting icons lies tucked away between a college campus and new household neighbourhoods in north Oshawa – its history mysterious to generations of the city’s citizens.

The area of legendary racehorse Northern Dancer’s burial internet site, whilst not exactly a magic formula, is guarded by fences to preserve out vandals and unpublicized by the metropolis. There is a complete whole lot of men and women, from nearby inhabitants, loved ones members of those people who used to work there to the Canadian Horse Racing Corridor of Fame, who would like to see that changed.

On May possibly 4 – 60 a long time (and two days) soon after the minor horse that could famously won the 1964 Kentucky Derby – they will get their want when the Northern Dancer Cemetery is additional to Doorways Open Ontario, an annual Ontario Heritage Believe in task that will work with communities throughout the province to open up the doors, gates and courtyards of their cultural web pages so guests can discover the stories inside.

Oshawa Councillor John Grey mentioned the quest to get the burial web site included to the Doorways Open up agenda “sailed ideal as a result of committee” and he expects a palms down remaining acceptance at Monday’s Council conference.

“There has been a great deal of desire created from this,” he claimed. “This should develop a lot of foot targeted visitors for Doors Open up.”


Northern Dancer, born at E.P. Taylor’s Windfield Farms racing steady in Oshawa in 1961, to start with attained his stripes on the observe, winning the 1964 Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Queen’s Plate, and his status as Canada’s most prosperous racehorse is unchallenged. But it was his daily life on the stud farm and his legacy as the finest sire of the 20th century (and further than) that definitely acquired the horse world wide fame.

Northern Dancer Kentucky Derby

Northern Dancer, with jockey Monthly bill Hartack and proprietor EP Taylor, soon after winning the 1964 Kentucky Derby

Northern Dancer was an fast strike in the breeding barn – just about 50 % of his to start with crop turned stakes winners and his second crop, led by English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky, introduced his identify to the intercontinental phase.

His fame necessitated a transfer to Taylor’s Maryland operations in 1968 and he swiftly turned the most sought-soon after sire of his time, with his stud expenses at some point achieving $1 million, the to start with horse to at any time do so.

By the time of his demise at the historic age of 29 in 1990, far more than two-thirds of all his foals experienced gained races and virtually a quarter had come to be stakes winners. Practically 70 for every cent of all thoroughbred horses racing these days can trace their lineage back again to him.

Just after his demise Northern Dancer was loaded in a specially crafted oak coffin, wrapped in a blanket he experienced won throughout his racing job and brought back again to Canada in a refrigerated van for burial at Windfields Farm.

The farm shut in 2009, with most of the 600-acre assets bought to Durham College or university (and subsequently transferred to Ontario Tech University) and Northern Dancer’s burial site was not publicly available for many decades, at a single level starting to be covered in weeds.

The grave, which also contains the remains of ten other horses (including 1960 Queen’s Plate winner Victoria Park) turned an formal heritage site in 2018, with the college tasked with sustaining and preserving the web site.

Northern Dancer’s grandmother and the matriarch of the line, Girl Angela, is buried at the close by Trillium Horse Cemetery.

Substantially of the former horse farm has been converted to household or university use, but the main location, that contains the Northern Dancer Cemetery, the Arena, Barn 2, Barn 6 (the Foaling Barn), and the Stallion Barn, continue to be. The arena and Barn 2 were being both of those built for Parkwood Stables, the title of the assets when Taylor bought it from Oshawa industrialist Col. Sam McLaughlin in 1950, and day back to the late 1920s.


Letters and e-mails from the general public all known as for the gravesite to be included to Doorways Open up:

  • “I would be a part of the Doorways Open up tour just to see the gravesite of Northern Dancer. I am specified that it would be a person of the most well-known web-sites.” – Harriet
  • “It is an essential element of Oshawa record and a critical ingredient in thoroughbred historical past that can by no means be forgotten. Not confident why it wouldn’t have been incorporated all alongside.” – Louise

And from Marianne, who grew up at Windfields as her father was the resident veterinarian and frequented the web-site when it was provided in Doorways Open up 10 several years back, on the 50th anniversary of Northern Dancer’s 1964 championship racing time:

  • “I think it to be these types of an significant house with so substantially heritage not only for the reason that of the Taylor Family and Windfields but also for the reason that that land was after Parkwood Stables. I certainly hope that you will take into account opening the main to the public. If not eternally, at the very least on this 1 day.”

And from Sarah, whose grandfather labored as a coach at both the Oshawa and Maryland attributes for 32 several years:

  • “He was a genuinely outstanding horseman. It would imply the world to me to have the opportunity to stop by Northern Dancer’s grave web-site as a farewell to my amazing grandfather.”

The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame also wrote in supporting the addition of the web-site to Doorways Open, calling the website “one of the most legendary homes related with Canadian horse racing.”

“Oshawa has within its boundaries … a home that is accountable for a lot of stories that we should strive to deliver to the general public in tangible strategies.”

Such as the property as a Doors Open location will offer an prospect to “celebrate the achievements of the house owners and horses” affiliated with Windfields and Oshawa, the Woodbine-based mostly group wrote, noting that 24 of Taylor’s horses – which includes six buried at the Northern Dancer cemetery – are in the Hall. “It has the probable to draw in significant fascination and site visitors reaching during the Canadian and international horse racing world.”

The timing of such as the gravesite in Doors Open is primarily significant, Gray mentioned, as not only is it the 60th anniversary of Northern Dancer’s victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Queen’s Plate, it is Oshawa’s centennial as an integrated city.

Other internet site presently included in Oshawa’s Doors Open up agenda are Intrepid Park (Camp X), Ontario Regiment Museum, Union cemetery and Parkwoods, as perfectly as much more modern spots like Oshawa Botanical Gardens and the Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

Northern Dancer Cemetery. Photograph Rosemary McConkey

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