OLD ENGLISH RANCHO CONTINUES LOVE AFFAIR WITH FAIRPLEX
In human terms, Ellwood B. (Bud) Johnston is as much a part of California racing as equine stars Swaps, Silky Sullivan, Native Diver and a host of others.
He's been an owner and breeder in the Golden State for nearly six decades, winning scores of stakes races and countless others, but he still gets a hoot racing at Fairplex Park, where in 2004, his Old English Rancho was the second inductee into the track's Hall of Fame.
Winning at Fairplex is no accident. Johnston's training facility at Old English Rancho, one of California's oldest and most successful breeding farms, has been designed with Pomona's bull ring in mind.
"I started in California in 1957, and the first crop from our farm hit the races in '51," Johnston said after a gelding he owns in partnership, Island Sunset, won Wednesday's fourth race in front-running fashion by 7 lengths under Christian Santiago Reyes for trainer Don Warren. Johnston and his wife, Judy, just missed winning the seventh with Suitable Attire, who was beaten a half-length by 44-1 shot Derby Memo.
"I don't know how many races we've won in California, but I probably have over 3,500 win pictures, and I'm probably missing 15 or 20 percent more, I don't know," Johnston said. "But we've had so much fun at the Pomona fair. It's been a great place for us to race, ever since it was a half-mile track.
"In fact, when Old English was in Ontario, I had a one-mile race track, but I laid out the same turn as the same half-mile turn at Pomona, so our horses were broken and trained to go around a half-mile turn.
"When this race track was increased to five-eighths of a mile (in 1985) and we moved to Sanger (near Fresno), I constructed our new track with the five-eighths configuration in mind. So when our horses go around the rail here, they don't leave it by much. We've won a lot of races just because our horses were trained on a similar track.
"We've had so much fun here. We've won more stakes than anybody else. It's a great place. I just hope it continues on for many more years."
FAIRPLEX PARK TO HONOR JERRY ANTONUCCI SUNDAY
Fairplex Park will honor veteran handicapper and turf writer Jerry Antonucci Sunday on the occasion of his retirement after covering racing at Pomona for 37 years.
Antonucci, who retired Aug. 17 following brain surgery, showed a profit betting at Fairplex 33 of those 37 years. So will he be wagering on Sunday?
"You betcha," Antonucci said with gusto. "Early and often."
Accompanying Antonucci will be his wife, Bonnie, his daughter, Cynthia, his son, James, and his wife, Mandy.
"We're delighted to have Jerry and his family here to be recognized for his long and loyal devotion to Fairplex Park and racing in general," said Fairplex Park Equine Manager Kim Lloyd. "Jerry will always be welcome here."
FAIRWELLS: On Wednesday, for the first time this meet, Martin Pedroza did not win a race. Fairplex Park's career leader in victories with 641 was blanked in 10 rides. He still needs 17 wins in the final five days to break his record of 51 set over 17 days in 2004. He was named on eight horses Thursday, three of them morning line favorites . . . Trainer John Shirreffs said American Oaks winner Harmonious likely will make her next start in the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Keeneland Oct. 2, while Zenyatta, who worked six furlongs under regular rider Mike Smith at Hollywood Saturday in 1:13.80, remains on course for the Lady's Secret Stakes at Hollywood the same day. Is Zenyatta more popular than Secretariat, whose movie debuts on Oct. 8? Bob Mieszerski, Hollywood PR director who also provides handicapping expertise for Fairplex Park's inter-track audience during the meet, says some 70 ESPN personnel are expected to inundate the Inglewood track to provide TV coverage as Zenyatta pursues her 19th victory prior to her final race in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6. Zenyatta has never been beaten, while Secretariat, who captured the Triple Crown in 1973, lost five times in his 21-race career . . . Clerk of Scales Charlie McCaul reports 24-year-old apprentice Johnny Gihua (GHEE-wah), who won Wednesday's eighth race on Argenta for leading trainer Doug O'Neill, loses his five-pound weight allowance on Oct. 1. Gihua was apprentice of the year in his native Peru in 2009, but was sidelined seven months with an injury to his right shoulder before coming to the U.S. "O'Neill is giving us lots of love," says Gihua's agent, George Ortuzar, "but Johnny has caught the eye of other trainers, as well.". . . Ears Lookingatyou became the first three-time winner at the meet when t