The roots of Old English Rancho began with two farms and a stallion that had been imported into California from England. Around 1939, a young man named Ellwood B. Johnston invested the fortune he made from a successful pie delivery business into Thoroughbred horses. He formed a partnership with Ted Tepper and bought 37 acres in Chino and, later, another 120 acres of land in Corona. When the partners stood their first stallion, British-bred Old English, at one of the ranches, Daily Racing Form columnist Oscar Otis dubbed the fledgling operation “Old English Rancho.” The name stuck.
Tepper eventually bowed out of the partnership and those ranches were eventually sold. In the late 1950s, Johnston moved his horses to a parcel of land adjacent to Ontario Airport. That property became the Old English Rancho, as we know it today.
By the early seventies, the Johnston family’s Ontario ranch had grown to the extent that it led all other breeders of stakes winners in the entire country in 1971 and 1972. More than 200 stakes winners were foaled and raised there and among the most notable that have carried the famed red and white silks have included Ruth Lily, the Johnstons’ first homebred stakes winner; Iron Maiden, dam of Kentucky Derby winner Iron Liege and granddam of legendary California-bred Swaps; Real Good Deal, winner of the 1964 California and Hollywood Derbies; and brilliant fillies like Fleet Treat, Generous Portion, Impressive Style and Balcony’s Babe. Old English Rancho has also bred June Darling, who defeated colts in the 1970 Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk Stakes, 1990 Kentucky Derby contender Real Cash and recent California champions Above Perfection and Disturbingthepeace. Among its recent stakes winners is Royally Chosen, winner of the 2003 California Cup Distaff and 2004 B. Thoughtful Stakes.
The ranch has advertised quite an impressive array of stallions over the years. Horses like The Pie King, Lucky Mel, Windy Sands and Bold Badgett stood at Old English throughout their stud careers and became very successful California sires.
Before he was sold to a Kentucky syndicate in 1965, Fleet Nasrullah left behind such offspring as Coursing, Century and Fleet Treat, as well as leading California sires Don B. and Gummo. The current stallion roster includes Lucayan Prince, Perfect Mandate and Unusual Heat.
A new era began for Old English Rancho in 1997. That’s when it relocated to Sanger, just east of Fresno, in the fertile San Joaquin Valley. Expansion of Ontario International Airport had thrown a shadow upon the historic Thoroughbred nursery and forced the Johnston family to make plans for its future.
They decided to let developers have the Ontario property and moved their base of operations to land they had cultivated in the central part of the state for the breaking and training of their yearlings. Ellwood Johnston had passed away in 1981 and his widow, Betty, followed him in 2000, but the traditions of Old English Rancho are still being lovingly maintained by The Pieman’s son, E. W. (Buddy) Johnston and wife Judy.
Fairplex Park salutes the master of Old English Rancho with the E. B. Johnston Stakes. With 51 stakes triumphs, our 2004 Hall of Fame recipient has won more feature races than any other owner in the history of the L.A. County Fair. Fairplex Park is honored to induct Old English Rancho into its Hall of Fame.
Story contributed by Debie Ginsburg