Labor Day, 1968. Chesapeake City, Md., and the surrounding equine community. Benny Miller thought he had the day off. His boss, Gene Weymouth, thought Miller was supposed to work. Thus ended 16 years of employment for Miller, and – unknowingly – began five decades and counting of impact on Thoroughbred racing in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond.
“I was born and raised in Wilmington [Delaware] and an older man named Buck lived two doors from us and he ran the barn for Weymouths,” said Miller, now 86, in January of the Weymouth family farm just outside the city. “My older brother went out there and I used to go out there with him and fool around with the horses and all the other kids. Gene started galloping horses for Burley Cocks and training a horse or two at the farm, so I started getting on horses for him. Then he moved.”
Soon to be eligible for the military draft, and without a long-range career plan, Miller took a job at Weymouth’s farm on Bunker Hill Road. Part-time, full-time, whatever-time, Miller stayed for 16 years as Weymouth began a lengthy career as a steeplechase and flat trainer.
The Labor Day dispute was relatively minor, especially for anyone who worked for the mercurial Weymouth, but Miller used it as an opportunity. Sixteen years was long enough, and with a wife and two young children, he couldn’t stay unemployed for long. On the recommendation of a local veterinarian, Miller went to talk to Joe Thomas at the Maryland division of Canada’s Windfields Farm.
“Take a month off and then come back and tell the farm manager we just hired you,” Thomas told Miller.
He stayed 20 years, managing the stallion division and working with the likes of Northern Dancer, Halo, Tentam, Rambunctious and all the others to grace the farm which opened in 1965 and grew into the rival of any in the world. Miller traveled to sales in Kentucky, supervised employees, managed the care of some of the world’s most sought-after horses. Windfields grew to 2,600 acres with facilities for stallions, broodmares, yearlings, racehorses. Founded by Canadian businessman E.P. Taylor, the farm was one of Cecil County’s largest employers – complete with unmistakable turquoise company vehicles, cream and turquoise directional signs, and a regular flow of horse vans to and from Kentucky.
“You couldn’t have worked for better people,” Miller said. “We had health insurance and dental insurance and back then a lot of places didn’t have that. It was something. The stallions we had . . . the training side had a turf course, a mile straight they could gallop on, everything you needed. Mr. Taylor would be there three or four times a year. In the barn, no matter who was there, he’d walk up and shake hands and tell them who he was.”
Miller and his family moved into a house next to the stallion barn, a milestone his daughter Linda Bench recalled with ease.
“That house was built for Dad,” she said. “Northern Dancer was there, right next door. There are a lot of memories.”
She’s still making them.
In 1978, Bench followed her father to a job with Windfields, working in the office with a team of people handling the business of a breeding farm covering hundreds of mares a year and housing the world’s most sought-after stallion. Northern Dancer’s published no-guarantee fee climbed to $500,000 by 1984. She met her husband Joe, who worked in the stallion barn, and sons Wayne and Shawn essentially never left even as everything else changed.
Northern Dancer was pensioned in 1987. The next year, the Taylor family closed the farm. Benny Miller left, started a painting business, and later worked for 12 years at the University of Florida before retiring in Delaware. The various segments of Windfields broke up much as they were assembled, becoming many small farms instead of a single massive one. The cars and signs went wherever they go. Northern Dancer died in 1990, his body shipped back to Canada in a specially designed coffin. The big-name stallions moved to Kentucky upon the farm’s closure, but a few others stayed to form the nucleus of Northview Stallion Station – a venture led by Allaire duPont. First based at Windfields’ Northview Annex property, the business moved to the former Windfields stallion division in 1991 and has been a fixture in the region ever since. Linda Bench has been there every step of the way.
“I was away from this building for a little while when the boys were babies and a couple years when we were over at the Northview Annex,” said Bench, “but it feels like being home. It’s always been home or a home away from home for me.”
Combined, she and her father have worked at Windfields and Northview for 54 years.
“It has remained a big part of my life, absolutely,” said Bench, officially Northview’s business manager. “I feel very grateful to have experienced it.”
She’s getting a chance to experience it all over again as Northview’s current owner Dr. Mike Golden – whose father Richard was a Northview partner with duPont and Dr. Tom Bowman – leads a recommitment to the farm, its facilities and its value to the Thoroughbred community. Changes dot the 171-acre farm. Northview built a four-stall stallion barn, upgraded the original eight-stall stallion barn, repaved roads, built new run-in sheds, planted dozens of trees and made a list for the future including improvements to the breeding shed and main broodmare barn, construction of a stallion show ring and more.
“The glow was fading a little just because it was older,” said Bench. “It’s wonderful to see everything looking so beautiful. It’s hard to express for me. There wasn’t anything wrong, it wasn’t being neglected, but it’s heartening to see it look so beautiful and come back. You can feel the commitment to it.”
The improvements stem from 2020 when Northview named Mike Golden as vice president and closed its Pennsylvania division to consolidate in Maryland. Richard Golden died at age 82 in September, spurring the plan into even more motion. Mike Golden and his sister Lisa Hofstetter own the business, and head a team including general manager David Wade, bloodstock manager Paul O’Loughlin, farm manager Francisco Torres, Bench and a crew of others.
The Goldens still own the adjacent Sycamore Hall Farm as a private Thoroughbred nursery while Northview continues on as the public operation complete with stallions, foaling, mare boarding and a sales division.
“We never specifically had a conversation about it, but it was very obvious that it would have been his wishes to keep the farm going,” said Mike Golden of his father. “He made that very clear. He had a passion for horse racing and wanted me and my sister to share the passion. The last couple years my dad wasn’t really as involved as even he would have liked to have been. We never had a conversation, but I know when he developed Sycamore Hall and when he developed Northview his intention would have been to have us carry on. I think he’d be very happy with what’s going on.”
Like his father, Mike Golden was quick to point to the people with their hands on the horses.
“He had the utmost respect for the people who worked at it, all the people who are part of the farms,” Mike said. “He would have wanted to keep everything going and have stability at the farm. He loved Maryland racing and the breeders in the area, and he felt like Northview was a very important part of Mid-Atlantic breeding. It’s a big responsibility. We’re going to try to keep it going and I hope we can.”
Mike Golden nearly became one of those hands-on people, as he went to veterinary school at Cornell University after graduating from Penn State, and spent several summers on Thoroughbred farms in Kentucky and working for racetrack veterinarian Dr. Robert Fritz at Saratoga Race Course.
The experience convinced him he wanted to work with animals – smaller animals.
“I loved working with horses and still love horses, I just decided that wasn’t the medicine I wanted to practice,” he said. “I enjoyed working with dogs and cats. I didn’t find reproductive equine medicine as interesting as the racetrack, and being a racetrack veterinarian just wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
Instead, Golden built a career caring for pets. He owns Veterinary Housecall Service in Crofton, Md., and can answer pretty much any question you want to throw at him about your Labrador Retriever or Norwich Terrier. Just like his interest in Thoroughbreds, Golden’s affinity for dogs and cats comes naturally.
“My parents always did whatever it took to take care of their animals – cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, we had everything growing up,” he said. “My mother bred Saint Bernards and it seemed like we would go to dog shows every weekend. I think that spurred an interest in looking at pedigrees and breeding.”
The CEO of clothing manufacturer Dorby Frocks Ltd., Richard Golden was a native New Yorker who got into racing as an owner in the early 1970s and eventually met duPont, who – as she did with Taylor – encouraged Golden to buy a farm in Chesapeake City. He bought land in 1986, built the original Sycamore Hall and helped launch Northview three years later as a way to ease the blow of Windfields’ closing. Windfields stallions Smarten, Caveat and Two Punch stayed and were later joined by Waquoit, Polish Numbers, Private Terms, Not For Love and others. Not For Love was Maryland’s Stallion of the Year a record 13 times. Sycamore Hall relocated and expanded to what was Bob Levy’s Muirfield East Farm across Md. 310, Golden became Northview’s president/CEO and the business rode the various waves of the region’s Thoroughbred industry. He’s not quite Not For Love, but Great Notion holds the role of Maryland’s stallion dean. Golden approached it like a business, but also knew that success or failure ultimately depended on the animals.
“There is really no formula for buying the right stallion,” he said via email in 2016. “I bought Not For Love because of his pedigree. It was outstanding. I really could have never purchased him if his race record was outstanding as well. I gave him to Graham Motion to train and we did well but then we decided that he was better off as a stallion.”
Not For Love (Mr. Prospector—Dance Number, by Northern Dancer) changed the game, remaining at Northview when he could have probably succeeded in Kentucky and his influence continues to be felt despite being pensioned in 2015 and dying in 2016.
Northview was never going to become Windfields, but the parallels remain – and not just in the location. Like E.P. Taylor, Golden got nudged deeper into the business by duPont and her historic Woodstock Farm just up the road.
“My dad always had a good relationship with Mrs. duPont; they got along extremely well,” said Mike Golden. “She had a reputation and a history in horse racing, they both loved animals and enjoyed being around quality horses. When she encouraged him to do things, he followed her advice, but he had a love of horse racing before he met her and I think that’s why he got involved in the stallion side of it, just a chance to be around good horses and to make an impact.”
And now it’s Mike Golden’s turn. Northview could have been sold, as Windfields was after Taylor died. Instead, there are new barns, new trees, new stallions, new blacktop and a new path forward.
“There’s so much history on the farm and my family is very aware of the history and it’s something we try to protect and maintain,” Mike Golden said. “On the other hand, you have to update things.”
Wade loves the feeling of a reboot.
“Your dad would have loved this,” Wade told Golden at the farm’s open house in December. “When he lived here and he saw it regularly, everything meant more to him and he was really into the game. He got a little bit older and stayed in Florida more, it wasn’t quite the same. It’s hard to hold the same enthusiasm. He had the enthusiasm for the horses, but maybe not as much as he first had in the farm and all the pieces of it.”
Foals started arriving in January. Ten stallions, including newcomers Galawi (Ire) and Engage, get to work this month. Northview can house plenty of mares in its barns, but also leases space at Woodstock. Wade and everyone else expects to be busy.
The Chesapeake City operation is not the region’s only stud farm, though it’s arguably the most important thanks to its history, reputation and depth. The main stallion barn was built as a four-stall – quickly expanded to eight – headquarters for Northern Dancer in the mid-1960s. It’s been a home to stallions ever since, and got a facelift in time for the 2021 breeding season.
A facelift, not a rebuild.
“The stall doors that are in there are the originals, all we did was rebuild the original Windfields doors,” said Wade. “All the hardware in there is the original hardware, we just refurbished it. We changed the flooring, we took out what were windows on the outside of the stallion barn and put in full doors to help with ventilation through the barn.”
Thoroughbred breeder and area real-estate agent John Price, who helped navigate the sale of Windfields to a group of locals and then the subsequent sales of the various pieces, called it all a testament to a special part of the Thoroughbred world.
DuPont’s vision got it started, Windfields’ creation kicked it to another level and it all continues in some fashion. Leading Standardbred breeder Winbak Farm occupies most of the old Windfields, but the list stretches to Northview, Sycamore Hall, Two Legends Farm, Select Breeders Services, Hassler Dressage, Roland Farm and plenty of other horse facilities named and not-named that were either part of Windfields or a Windfields neighbor.
“We put close to 4,000 acres in preservation, and sold Windfields basically the way Mr. Taylor acquired the farms when he put it all together,” said Price, who recalled signing listing documents with the Windfields attorneys in Fasig-Tipton’s office at Saratoga. “Windfields closing was like saying IBM was going to shut down. It was huge at the time, and nobody really knew what would happen.”
Advertisements rattled off amenities such as 400 stalls, 42 miles of fencing, 31 houses, 5 miles of interior roads. The year it closed, Windfields bred 600 mares – without Northern Dancer. Need a comparison? The entire state listed 778 mares bred in 2021.
In the end, duPont’s vision simply took another form. Windfields is gone, but its spirit remains. You can’t go to Northview and not think of Northern Dancer, The Minstrel, Halo, Deputy Minister . . . the barn fire that killed a dozen mares in 1968 . . . Taylor watching horses train from the widow’s walk of his stately home . . . those garish green station wagons . . . and all the successful racehorses conceived and/or born there.
“This place is really incredibly important to the Maryland breeding industry,” said breeder Jim Dresher, part of the ownership group of Northview stallion First Mondays and a breeding-right owner in Galawi. “It’s maybe the most important place – I know Country Life Farm is very important, Murmur, they’re all important, but the legacy that’s here . . . there’s no other place quite like this. This is part of the legacy and heritage of our state. You don’t even have to like racing to realize that this is important.”