​Woodbine Racetrack - Taylor's Giant of the North

The E.P. Taylor Stakes (Grade 1) was run at Woodbine racetrack for the 66th time on October 17 and a thrilling renewal of the $600,000 (Can) race at 1 1/4 miles on turf was won by New York-based Mutamakina.

The race is internationally respected and an important event on the North American stakes schedule for fillies and mares and fittingly, named for the founding father of Woodbine.

Edward Plunket Taylor was studying engineering at McGill University in Ottawa in the 1920s when he became enamored with horse racing. During his summer break he traveled to Montreal to watch the races at Blue Bonnets and he learned to ride.

Taylor was a whiz at business: one of his first ventures was inventing a two-sided toaster. Yes, toasters in the 20s only toasted one side of the bread! His imagination and foresight led him down the path of brewing beer. By his early 30s formed the Brewing Corporation of Ontario, Canadian Breweries and had control of big companies such as Dominion stores and Massey Ferguson.

He bought his first racehorses in the 1930s and they raced under Cosgrave Stable, named after one of his beers. He transformed a racing stable into a farm, National Stud Farm, located just north of the city of Toronto. The name would soon be changed to Windfields Farm, honoring his first stakes winning horse.

World War II put his businesses and his interest in horse racing on hold. And it nearly cost him his life. Working for the Canadian Government in war production as Director General of Munitions and Supply, he survived a harrowing journey across the Atlantic in 1940 when the ship he was on was torpedoed.

When the war ended in 1945, Taylor was back in business and ready to immerse himself into racing.

Taylor was not only building a world class breeding operation but he wanted to be involved in streamlining horse racing in Ontario.

As a member of the Ontario Jockey Club (OJC) he set forth a plan to rebuild what was a waning, corruption-riddled horse racing industry in the province. Under Taylor, the OJC bought up seven tracks in southern Ontario, sold off most of them, and in 1956, Taylor unveiled the 'giant of the north', Woodbine Racetrack. The track took its name from the original Woodbine, at the east end of Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario, and that track was renamed Greenwood.

The track was built almost 30 minutes to the northwest of Toronto, close to the airport but essentially in the middle of hundreds of acres of fields,

At first, the critics were out in full force, exclaiming the track was in the middle of nowhere, too far for people to be interested in travelling to watch racing.

Boy, were they wrong.

Some 10,000 showed up for the ribbon cutting on a hot, June afternoon. At that time there was a dirt track and a turf track, a training track, stabling for some 1,000 horses and a huge grandstand for some 30,000 spectators. It cost $13 million to build which translates to about $125 million today.

Woodbine and the area around it has changed a lot in 65 years. The track has had a great deal of upgrades and facelifts. The track made international news in 1973 when the great Secretariat completed his illustrious career in the Canadian International in 1973.

One of the track's greatest days came in October 1996 when it hosted the Breeders' Cup races and its facilities received rave reviews from horsepeople and media visiting from all parts of the world.

On Breeders' Cup day, the world saw the new E.P. Taylor turf course, the unique 1 1/2 mile track that goes around the outside of the one-mile main track. The track's inner turf course had been replaced by a Standardbred track which allowed for two breeds to compete and when the Standardbreds moved permanently to Woodbine Mohawk Park in nearby Campbellville three years ago, the inner track was made into a turf course again.

Woodbine's main track is now a Tapeta, all-weather surface.

In 2001 Casino Woodbine opened, taking over more than half of the first floor of the track. It is one of the most successful casinos in the country. And the most significant expansion for Woodbine and its 600 acres around it is underway now with the expansion of the casino and the addition of a hotel and entertainment venue. A GO train station will soon have a stop at the track also.

Woodbine is considered one of the premier racetracks in North America and today hosts numerous graded stakes races including the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, an important race on the path to the Breeders' Cup Mile. The Woodbine stakes calendar is highlighted each year by the country's most prestigious race, the Queen's Plate, the longest, most continuously run race in North America. With its top facilities and award-winning food offered at its various restaurants, Woodbine is a must-see for any horse racing lover!