jack armstrong still going strong after 25 years

By Dick Jerardi

When one of his co-workers told him about a horse he owned that was going to be running at Parx, Jack Armstrong was intrigued enough that he went along. When the horse ended up in the winner’s circle, Armstrong wanted that feeling, saying to himself  “if that was my horse, this might be fun.”

A quarter century later, Armstrong has been the owner of more than 4,000 starters. He is regularly among the leading owners at Parx Twelve times, he has been among the nation’s top 100 owners. His horses have 669 wins, 670 seconds and 617 thirds. They have earned more than $14 million.

“I started at one (horse) and quickly went north of one,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong typically has around 22 horses. He uses trainers Bob Mosco, Scott Lake and Phil Aristone at Parx. He also has some horses at Gulfstream Park with Peter Walder.

Armstrong is in the claiming game. It can be unforgiving, but Armstrong runs his stable like a business and has been able to make it work for 25 years

“I was lucky enough to be leading owner a couple of times,” Armstrong said. “All of the people I was in contention with (at the start) are long gone.”

But the excitement remains.

“The thrill of trying to find that right horse, to me winning an allowance race, winning a starter race, that keeps me going,” Armstrong said.

The attractive purse structure at Parx has brought new money into the game. It is very different from when Armstrong began which was pre slots.

“When you raise the money, you attract the horses,” Armstrong said. “So a race that was maybe relatively easy to win or easier to win became a lot tougher. So if you double the money, but you make the race three times harder to win…”

Bottom line, however, the new money, according to Armstrong “saved the game.”

And the savvy owners like Armstong have managed to keep winning even with the increased competition.

“I think I’m pretty aggressive,” Armstrong said. “I put my horse in the right place. When I first started doing that, your horse wouldn’t get claimed. Now, when you do that, you’re guaranteed to get your horse claimed. There’s just more people looking for horses.”

When he was told he had been in the top 100 12 times, with earnings of more than $1 million in 2012, 2014 and 2019, Armstrong did not know about the top 100 stat, but said: “I’m proud of it for sure. I’m a claiming guy.”

Armstrong grinds out the earnings. He is not going to win races with six-figure purses.

Armstrong figures he picks “95 percent of the horses” he claims. He looks at them on paper and then has his trainers look at the horses before a final decision is made.

Armstrong is always thinking two or three steps ahead. There is no sense in claiming a horse if there are not going to be races for the horse. So that is absolutely part of the decision making.

Where does the horse fit? Will those races go?

Armstrong thinks about the upside and the downside.

“If everything goes right, I could run in these races, if everything goes wrong, I can run in this race and get out, cut the loss,” Armstrong said. “I try to look up and down, where am I going with this horse?”

Armstrong uses the number $3,500 per month per horse or $70,000 per month in earnings for 20 horses to get to a spot where you can make some money. And that does not include the 10 percent for the trainer and jockey. So that number might be closer to $84,000, he said.

But, he explained when you have 20-25 horses, you might get 25 starts in a month and average $3,000 per start. Last year, Armstrong’s 142 starts brought back earnings of $665,474 or $4,686 per start. In 2019, Armstrong’s 220 starts resulted in $1,187,845 in earnings, almost $5,400 per start.

It is a business for Armstrong, but has his favorites. His all-time favorite is Centre Court Champ who is still running and was recently claimed by Jamie Ness. The horse earned $200,675 for Armstrong and has continued to win for Ness.

On Feb. 7, Armstrong and Mosco claimed Counterspy off Ness for $40,000. Two wins and $61,200 in earnings later, they are out on that one.

One of Armstrong’s other favorites and his best earner was the mare Courtage with $242,508. He bred her to Untowncharleybrown two straight years. One foal is a 2-year-old getting ready for the races. The other is a yearling. Sadly, the mare has since died, but Armstrong is really looking forward to racing the two Pennsylvania breds.

So, beyond the claiming game, Armstrong has two of his own on the way, with Pa. Bred breeder money as a potential added bonus. Thus, even after 25 years, he remains a serious player and promises to remain so well into the future.

Latest Articles

Plan your next party or function at PARX Racing today. Whether you're watching a race, hosting a dinner, or a corporate event.

Plan An Event

Let's Go Racing TV Show

Catch the news every Saturday at 10am on NBC Sports Philadelphia!

Check out Let’s Go Racing PARX YouTube Channel