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Northern Dancer: Little horse, big legacy

In a ceremony at Oshawa City Hall on April 16, the grave site of Northern Dancer was designated as an official heritage site.

Northern Dancer, a small horse with a big attitude and an even bigger legacy has had a lasting impact on the City of Oshawa. His gravesite was officially designated as a heritage site under the Ontario Heritage Act on April 16 in an event at city hall.

“We’ve got a great day to celebrate the history of this community and the future history of Canada and the world,” said Oshawa Mayor John Henry.

Northern Dancer was one of E.P Taylor’s race horses. E.P Taylor owned Windfields Farm. Although he had a very short racing career from 1963 to 1964, he won the Kentucky Derby with a new record, Preakness Stakes and the Queen’s Plate. He was the first Canadian-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby.

“Northern Dancer was one of the greatest champions of all time,” said UOIT president, Steven Murphy.

Northern Dancer was known to have quite the attitude, despite his small stature. It was suggested to Taylor he have Northern Dancer gelded to calm him down. Taylor refused and the horse became known for his explosive speed.

“He was spicy, he was a character. He was just a little guy, but he had such a big heart,” said famed horse racing jockey Sandy Hawley.

After Northern Dancer was retired, he was used for breeding. It is estimated that around 70 per cent of all racing horses active today have Northern Dancer’s genes. Northern Dancer died in November 1990. He is buried at the former Windfields farms, now land owned by UOIT.

The heritage designation from Oshawa City Council and supported by UOIT, is meant to honour Northern Dancer’s racing history and contribution to Taylor’s legacy. The designation will prevent the gravesite from being disturbed.

“The city’s heritage designation of Northern Dancer’s gravesite is more than just a symbolic and cherished part of history. In many ways, the designation is also an affirmation of the city’s future and the university’s future and their strong partnership,” said Murphy.

To demonstrate the city’s commitment to Windfields Farm Legacy, it presented UOIT with the remaining funds from a donation to the project by Minto Group back in 2012. $113,443.12 was given to the school to allow for landscaping and site improvements near Northern Dancer’s gravesite. The city also gave Noreen Taylor, daughter-in-law of the late E.P. Taylor and chancellor of UOIT, the original Windfields farm entry sign for the university to display.