FROM breeding racing pigeons and pedigree cattle to Group-winning racehorses, David Armstrong has achieved it all. He is yet to descend from the euphoria he experienced on Saturday when his Mayson landed the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket, a first Group race success for the owner-breeder.
Armstrong, who owns three quarries and a waste management and recycling centre in Lancashire, has been seduced by the buzz of breeding winning racehorses and now runs a commercial breeding operation out of Highfield Farm to fulfil his addiction.
"I am over the moon to have bred my first Group winner," says Armstrong. "As any breeder will know, the enjoyment and satisfaction from breeding winners is indescribable" Armstrong hopes that Mayson, a son of Invincible Spirit, can produce the goods at the highest level this season. He says: "We always felt that we would get the best out of this horse when he turned four. We've given him plenty of time; we've always known he was a decent horse and this year he has proved that.
"Breeding a Group 1 winner is my number-one ambition in life."
Armstrong, who now owns eight broodmares, has always had a passion and instinct for breeding."I've always been into breeding animals. Pedigree cows, racing pigeons and dogs -1 used to breed them all, trying to produce the best progeny possible. In this game, you can have all the tools in the world but you also need luck."
There are many ups and downs in breeding thoroughbreds and the low point for Armstrong was when Mayson's dam, Mayleaf, a half-sister to the Listed-winning juvenile Bathwick Bear, was diagnosed with with what proved to be fatal cancer.
Armstrong recalls: "Mayson was the mare's first foal and she was back in foal to Invincible Spirit. She had been home for a couple of weeks when I went down to see her in the paddock one afternoon. She was breathing a little heavily so we called for the vet. After an hour the vet couldn't pinpoint anything wrong so we took her to the University of Liverpool Equine Hospital (Leahurst), with little Mayson in tow, and within an hour she'd been diagnosed with cancer. The vets couldn't believe how well she looked - her coat was gleaming and she looked a million dollars. They were amazed by the support she'd been able to give Mayson considering the deterioration of her organs. It was a very sad time.
"We didn't foster Mayson. I went and bought milk pellets from our food supplier and in the mean time we just turned him out with another mare and foal to keep him company. He was never any bother - it's an amazing story really."
Armstrong is of the opinion that breeding speedier horses has a number of benefits for smaller breeders. "When I set up the breeding operation I decided to focus on sprinters," he says. "I believe that you can get the speedier types on the racetrack sooner rather than waiting for the stayer types."
Armstrong's passion and enthusiasm for breeding is inspiring and you can be forgiven for thinking he is a sentimental type, but don't be fooled. He is a battle-hardened businessman who understands the rigors of running a commercial business.
"If the mares don't produce winners they have to go, as simple as that," he stresses. "It's not a fairytale story. My ambition is to breed the best horses possible on our budget. It's a tough world out there and you have to be constantly thinking and evolving, but that's why I love it."