What’s in a (Race) Name? E. P. Taylor’s Legacy

Canadian owner-breeder E. P. Taylor left an indelible mark on the sport and is honored with a stakes race at Woodbine. (John C. Wyatt/BloodHorse)

Imagine breeding 18 winners of a historic and prestigious race like the Kentucky Derby. When it comes to the Derby, the feat has never been accomplished (the record is the nine winners bred by Calumet Farm), but in Canada, a race of equal importance was once dominated to that degree by a man named Edward Plunkett Taylor.

The race in question is the Queen’s Plate Stakes at Woodbine. The 1 ¼-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds is Canada’s equivalent of the Kentucky Derby, and in fact, the Queen’s Plate is even older than the Derby—it was first run in 1860 and has been held every year since then.

Ironically, Edward Plunkett Taylor—often referred to as “E. P. Taylor”—not only dominated the race for many years, but also deserves credit for making the race what it is today. The Canadian businessman seemed to achieve success in any enterprise he chose to tackle, making a large fortune with breweries in his home country, and the results weren’t any different when he turned his attention to Thoroughbred horse racing. In fact, his success was astonishing.

As a young man in the 1930s, Taylor had raced horses under the name of Cosgrave Stable, but it was in the 1950s that he really got involved in the industry. Hoping to raise the caliber of the sport in Canada, Taylor founded Windfields Farm, served as president of the Ontario Jockey Club for 20 years, and helped strengthen the industry by consolidating racing in Ontario at an impressive new racetrack named Woodbine, which opened in 1956.

But Taylor didn’t stop there. It was his goal to breed top-notch horses in Canada that could compete at the highest levels of the sport, but it was not his intention to exclusively reap the benefits of those horses. Instead, he would put his young horses up for sale each year, helping other Canadian owners and breeders to raise the quality of their own stables and breeding stock.

Of course, Taylor kept enough horses for his own stable to reach record-breaking heights. Over the years he bred an amazing 18 Queen’s Plate Stakes winners and raced 11 of them himself, including five winners in six years from 1959 to 1964. Certainly the best of them was Northern Dancer, who won the Queen’s Plate in the same year that he became the first Canadian-bred winner of the Kentucky Derby. Northern Dancer later became one of the greatest and most influential stallions in the history of the sport, with one of his best foals being Nijinsky, winner of the 1970 English Triple Crown. Nijinsky, of course, was bred by Taylor’s Windfields Farm.

Considering the massive impact that Taylor had on Canadian racing and breeding, it’s only fitting that Woodbine—the track he helped create—annually hosts a Grade 1 race in his honor, that being the $500,000 E. P. Taylor Stakes this Sunday. Let’s take a look at a few other upcoming races named for racing legends of the past. …

Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine

Among the most famous horses bred by E. P. Taylor was Nearctic, a four-time stakes-winning 2-year-old that went on to achieve success as an older horse and earned the Sovereign Award as Canada’s 1958 Horse of the Year. His biggest triumphs on the track included wins in the 1958 Michigan Mile and the 1956 Saratoga Special Stakes, but it was at stud that Nearctic truly left his mark. After all, he was the sire of the above-mentioned Northern Dancer.

Victorian Queen Stakes at Woodbine

Victorian Queen was as durable a mare as you’ll ever find. During a career that spanned from 1973 through 1975, she ran in 51 races (including 23 in 1974 and 20 in 1975!) while proving herself to be a very effective stakes competitor. During her last year of competition, she won the Canadian Stakes and the Ontario Sire Stakes in her native Canada and placed in a couple of graded stakes races in the United States on her way to winning Sovereign Awards as champion older mare and champion grass horse.

Pebbles Stakes at Belmont Park

You might say that Pebbles was a pretty good filly on turf. In her native Great Britain, she was a classic winner, scoring a decisive three-length win in the 1984 1,000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket. The following year, she would add wins in a couple more top-level British races—the Eclipse Stakes and the Champion Stakes—before coming to North American to win the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf by a neck, earning the Eclipse Award as champion turf female.

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