JACK ARMSTRONG HAS FOUR-WIN DAY

By Dick Jerardi

When Jack Armstrong arrived at Parx on July 30, he knew he had a strong hand with seven horses in the 12 races. He has also owned horses for 20 years, so he knows how hard the game can be.

“I was talking to a couple of buddies and I got seven (entries) in, which is hard to do anyway,” Armstrong said. “I’m like, ‘I hate to be greedy, but I think three or four of these have a pretty good shot.’

“The first one, I said to (trainer) Scott (Lake) ‘I’ve got six in after this, if we can win this race, I can’t go 0-for-7,’” Armstrong said.
Now, that is spoken like a horse owner who knows what can go wrong. Well, on that day, just about everything went right.

Armstrong won that first race. And the second. And the third. He had horses finish third in the fourth race, then fourth in the fifth race and fifth in the seventh race.

Armstrong had won three races in a day before, but his memory is that they were at different tracks.

Could he win four, and all at his home track? He could, and he did when To The Flag won the 10th race.

“It was pretty cool,” said Armstrong, a member of the Parx Racing Hall of Fame. “My phone was blowing up. Keith Jones said it was Jack Armstrong Day at the Races… It was fun. I’ve been in the game for a long time. I’ve got to say that was pretty cool.”

Iwish Irish, who was 8-5, won the first, going 1 mile. The winner’s purse was $12,000. Iwish Irish was claimed for $5,000.

Star Sign, a first-time starter at 4-1, won the second, a maiden $20,000 claimer going 7 furlongs. The horse is trained by Bobby Mosco, one of three trainers Armstrong uses along with fellow Parx Hall of Famers Phil Aristone and Lake. First place was worth $14,000.

Lendar, trained by Lake, went wire-to-wire in the third to win by 6 1/2 lengths at 4-5 going 7 furlongs. The winning purse was worth $12,600. Lendnar was claimed for $7,500.

Chelios finished third in the fourth at 3-1 for Aristone and was promptly claimed for $5,000. Raggy Rocks finished fourth in the fifth race, a maiden $20,000 claimer. Cousin Pete finished fifth in the seventh, a maiden special weight.

Lake was back with To The Flag in the 10th. The horse won the 7-furlong race by two lengths at 5-2. The winner’s purse was $18,000 and, yes, To The Flag was claimed for $12,500.

For the day, the seven horses earned $61,590 in purses and brought back another $30,000 for the claims. Armstrong used three trainers and six jockeys.

Armstrong was delivering pizzas two decades ago when he went to the track one day with a co-worker who just happened to own horses.

“I had been to the races as a bettor and as a fan,” Armstrong said. “I come to the races, watch his horse run and I’m like ‘that was kind of exciting and that was his horse. Imagine if this was my horse’. One thing leads to another. I get in. I get a horse. Pretty much, I’m addicted at that point. It was such a thrill.”

His first horse wasn’t very talented, but his second horse was.

“One became two, then became four, and now I have 22 as of today (Aug. 18),” Armstrong said. “I’m a claiming guy. I’ve never won a stakes race. I’ve been in a couple, had a couple seconds. But to me the fun is one gets claimed off me; alright good, I’ll go look for another one.

“I was talking to Bobby Mosco. It’s not even all the money, it’s about when you claim a horse thinking: ‘Hey, we can stretch this horse out and she might like it. We can shorten this one up and he might like it.’”

Armstrong has been around long enough to remember “the beaten fours ($4,000 claimers with conditions) when the pot was $7,500, (with) $4,500 to the winner. After the 10 percent for the trainer and the jock, we came out with $3,600”.

The slot machine revenue that led to dramatically increased purses changed the economics for Parx owners. Before slots, they were just trying to survive. Now, done correctly, it is possible for stables at Parx to show a decent profit.

Without owners, there is no game. Owners with passion make the game. Jack Armstrong is a perfect example of how it can be done. He has been savvy enough in how he runs his operation that he is capable of having days like July 30—seven starters, four winners, and more than $90,000 coming into the stable in one afternoon.

THE UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN SAGA

By Dick Jerardi

They knew in late 2009 and early 2010 that Uptowncharlybrown might be special when he won the first two starts of his career by a combined 15 lengths.

But just as he was headed for the Triple Crown trail, the colt’s trainer Alan Seewald died. Uptowncharlybrown eventually ran a solid third in the Lexington Stakes just after Seewald’s death. Then, the colt was a respectable fifth in the Belmont Stakes for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin before being disqualified because a lead weight had fallen out of the lead pad under the saddle.

Uptowncharlybrown never won another race after those first two starts, but his story is still evolving, now in fast forward. The horse stands stud at Glenn and Becky Brok’s Diamond B Farm in Mohrsville, Pa., not far from Reading. He is the hottest stallion in the state. And one can make a case that, in relation to the quality of mares he’s being bred to, one of the hottest in the country.

Those were two of Uptowncharlybrown’s sons, full brothers Midtowncharlybrown and Midnightcharly, finishing one-two in the $100,000 Banjo Picker Stakes at Parx on Aug. 3. The pair, out of the unraced Speightstown mare Torchwood, have combined to earn $755,278, with 15 wins in 31 starts.

“Just a great credit to our trainer Ed Coletti, Jr., and the late Alan Seewald who said Uptowncharlybrown was the best horse I ever owned,” said Bob Hutt, managing partner of Uptowncharlybrown Stud LLC. “Turns out he was right, but as a stallion and we’re just thrilled.”

Hutt’s partnerships started years ago as Fantasy Lane Stable with about 10 people who put up a few hundred dollars each. Uptowncharlybrown Stud is the successor to Fantasy Lane and a bit more expensive ($1,125 for a fractional share of a horse), but as Hutt said, “we’ve been winning at 30 percent for the last three years, in the top 1 percent in the nation… It’s basically for the everyday fan who wants to become involved in racing.”

Hutt described everything as a “whirlwind” after Seewald’s death.

“I didn’t know where to turn,” Hutt said.

Uptowncharlybrown suffered an injury after the Belmont and did not race for more than a year. He ran some decent races upon his return, but never had the explosion he showed early in his career.

“Foolishly, I decided to make him a stud, probably for all the wrong reasons, but mainly to keep Alan’s memory alive,” Hutt said. “We’ve been blessed.”

The top two stallions in America, Curlin and Tapit, have an Average Earning Index (AEI) of 2.3 and 2.27, respectively. Third is Uptowncharlybrown with 2.24.

The mares that are bred to those big-name stallions are some of the best in America. Uptowncharlybrown is not getting anything like that quality of mares. Despite that, Uptowncharlybrown is averaging $88,000 per foal. He’s tied with the recently deceased Pennsylvania stallion Jump Start with three 2019 stakes wins. Jump Start has 141 runners to just 18 for Uptowncharlybrown.

Uptowncharlybrown was bred to 48 mares in 2018, 82 in 2019. So, with even more chances to get a good horse there is really no telling how many stakes winners Uptowncharlybrown might eventually produce.

Hutt calls the full brothers who ran 1-2 in the Banjo Picker the “Smash Brothers”. Their full sister, Charly’s Charm, has earned $75,760 in seven starts. The partnership just bought into Charly’s Assassin, the 2-year-old full brother. He will be training at Parx with Coletti.

Torchwood is owned by Coletti’s stepmother, Irene, whose registered ownership name is Godric LLC. She is partners with Hutt’s group on all four siblings. It has been a rather good partnership so far. Those breeders’ awards have also been nice for Irene. And who knows what’s on the horizon?

HUGE PERFORMANCES AND PURSES ON PA DAY

By Dick Jerardi

The final Saturday before the annual August break at Parx was a day-long showcase for the breeding program in Pennsylvania. It was only fitting that the performance of the day on “PA’s Day at the Races” came by a son of the greatest PA-Bred of them all.

That would Someday Jones, a son of Smarty Jones, in the Roanoke, one of five $100,000 stakes on the 12-race card that had $1,122,150 in total purses. I ran into John Servis the next night at Sperry’s in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where he was having dinner with his dad Joe, brother Jason and Jason’s wife Natalie.

John was not only thrilled with Someday Jones’ dominating 6 1/4-length win (career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure), he was equally thrilled that his son Tyler won the $100,000 Dr. Teresa Garofalo Memorial with Afleet Tizzy, and thankful brother Jason decided to scratch Monongahela from the Roanoke to run him in the Grade I Whitney the same afternoon at Saratoga. Someday Jones might have been able to beat Monongahela, but it would not have been nearly as easy as it turned out to be.

It was not only a great day at Parx; it was also a great day for Parx 250 miles north of the track. That was 2018 Pennsylvania Derby winner McKinzie winning the Whitney in style and stamping himself as a major contender for Horse of the Year. About 2 1/2 hours before the Whitney, Parx fan favorite Pure Sensation, who has completely dominated the Parx Dash and Turf Monster in recent years and likely will be back to defend his Turf Monster title on Labor Day, chased a crazy pace (20.82, 43.01, 54.26) in the Troy before settling for third in a 5 1/2 furlong race that was timed in a course record 1:00.23.

The Uptowncharlybrown phenomenon continued when his son Midtowncharlybrown beat his younger full brother, Midnightcharly, by a neck in the Banjo Picker Sprint at Parx. Both horses are trained by Eddie Coletti who has found racing gold with the offspring of Pennsylvania’s hottest young sire.

The two grass stakes at Parx went to overwhelming favorite Imply in the Mrs. Penny and longshot Hollywood Talent in the Marshall Jenny Handicap. Imply, who trains at Penn National for Bernie Houghton, was the only non Parx-based horse to win one of the stakes.

Hollywood Talent was expertly managed by trainer Carlos Guerrero who got the horse to peak after just one race in a year, an off-the-grass way-back finish on July 27. In his first race for Guerrero, Hollywood Talent had finished third in the 2018 Jenny, beaten by just 1 length at 8-1. This time, Hollywood Talent, just a week after his comeback race, won the Jenny by a nose at 12-1.

The Parx card, with all 12 races for Pennsylvania-Breds, was so attractive to the large crowd at the track and simulcast bettors that the total handle was $2,178,509, nearly as much as Laurel Park and Delaware Park combined.

Parx Heads Into August Break

Smarty Jones to Parade at the Track on Labor Day

Following the live program on Tuesday, August 6, Parx Racing will begin its scheduled break from live racing until the end of the month.  Racing will resume at the Bensalem track on Saturday, August 31st.

The return of live racing will begin the track’s biggest month.  Opening weekend will feature Horses & Hounds Day and the first ever Bassett hound races in support of Bassett hound rescue. Sunday, September 1st will be Mascot Mania Day as the track will play host to a series of races featuring many of the best local mascots.

Labor Day, Monday, September 2nd is Smarty Jones Day.  The race card features seven stakes including the G3 $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for three year-olds and the G3 $300,000 Turf Monster Handicap, the track’s top turf sprint of the year.  The highlight of Smarty Jones day could well be the return of Smarty himself.  The 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will make his first local appearance since his historic run 15 years ago, being paraded for the local fans later in the day.