ARCADIA, Calif. (May 5, 2015) -- E.W. (Buddy) Johnston, whose stewardship of the family’s Old English Rancho earned him induction into the California Racing Hall of Fame, passed away Tuesday morning in his sleep. He would have turned 78 on Wednesday.
Johnston, who with wife Judy bred 2011 Eclipse Award winner Acclamation, for 25 years was a director of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association and also served as its president. He was instrumental in the reduction of personal property tax on horses and improving California breeder awards.
Old English Rancho has bred Breeders’ Cup starters Flying Sensation and (in partnership) Disturbingthepeace, as well as top fillies Admirably, June Darling and Above Perfection.
Among the stallions that stood at Old English Rancho early were The Pie King, Fleet Nasrullah, Lucky Mel and Windy Sands. Before being sold to a Kentucky syndicate, Fleet Nasrullah left his bloodlines in California through such offspring as Coursing, Century and Fleet Treat, as well as stallions Don B. and Gummo. The latter sired Ancient Title and Flying Paster.
Current stallions at Old English Rancho include Acclamation, Cyclotron, Surf Cat, Vronsky and Big Bad Leroybrown.
According to his NTRA biography, one of the farm's first major runners was The Pie King, a name Johnston carried, himself, during his time with his pie-delivery outfit. Others to race under the Old English Rancho red and white silks included Ruth Lily, the farm's first stakes winner; Real Good Deal, winner of the 1964 California and Hollywood derbies; Something Lucky, Stylish Winner and Somethingmerry.
Old English Rancho has foaled more than 200 stakes winners, including homebreds Fleet Treat, Real Good Deal, and Generous Portion, all of whom have Del Mar stakes named after them.
Breeding farm is located near Sanger, Calif., in Central California's San Joaquin Valley east of Fresno. For many years, the farm was located in Ontario, Calif., but as the Ontario International Airport continued to grow, the Johnstons sold the property in Southern California and moved to the land near Sanger, which had been used for several years as a training layout for the breeders' young horses. The farm's roots go back to 1939 when Elwood B. Johnston, Buddy's father, parlayed a fortune made in a pie-delivery business into Thoroughbred racing and breeding.
Horse racing and breeding for the Johnston family began when Elwood Johnston and a partner, Ted Tepper, bought 37 acres in Chino, in Southern California. Later, they bought 120 acres in nearby Corona, Calif. Their first stallion was the imported Old English, which inspired Daily Racing Form columnist Oscar Otis to dub the operation Old English Rancho, and, naturally, the name stuck. Buddy and Judy took over the day-to-day operation of the farm in 1957 and Old English Rancho was named the nation's top breeding operation in 1971 and ’72. In addition, it has been California's leading breeder 13 times.
Johnston was the 2007 recipient of the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award honoring an individual who has served the sport with integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination and distinction.
Johnston is survived by his wife of 58 years, Judy; daughters Darlene Johnston Smith and Mary Johnston Hilvers; five grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Daughter Mary Hilvers and her husband, Peter, live at Old English Rancho, where Peter works and where their son, Jonny, serves as ranch manager. Mary and Peter own Acclamation in partnership with Bud and Judy.