Joseph Elgin Armstrong pioneered in breeding Holstein cattle and Standardbred horses, which excelled nationally and internationally. One of the first farmers to grow alfalfa in Peel County, he developed a reputation as a grower and custom thresher of alfalfa and clover seeds. His alfalfa seed captured prizes at the very first Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in 1922.
Elgin, as perceptive with animals as with crops, had gathered a small growing herd of Holstein-Friesian cattle and by the mid-1940s his bloodstock was world renowned. His ABC Reflection Sovereign became one of the most influential Holstein sires in the world before the herd was dispersed in 1948.
Elgin Armstrong made a lasting influence on breeding Standardbreds and racing Thoroughbreds in England and North America. His first homegrown Thoroughbred, named Armbro, came to the front in the1947 Canadian Oaks but failed to hold the win. Later the name Armbro became a hallmark prefix in Standardbreds.
The Armbro horse operation shared a location near Brampton with the construction company operated by the Armstrongs. Performance of Armstrong horses in the 1954 Queen’s Plate led to a 1955 junket to England, which culminated in the purchase of nine Thoroughbreds and some success on British turf. At the Sussex Stakes in Goodwood, the Queen’s colt was beaten in a photo finish by My Kingdom, a Canadian horse owned by Elgin Armstrong.
Armstrong had an eye for good racers and broodmares among Standardbreds as well. In 1952 he bought a filly on the spot in Florida, and in 1953 this horse, Helicopter, was the winner of the coveted Hambletonian. She brought forth Armbro Flight, a Canadian Horse of the Year for three straight seasons and holder of many world records. Armbro Omaha turned out to be the richest horse of 1974, capturing an unprecedented five $100,000 races to give Armstrong his first Little Brown Jug victory. In the sales rings, Armbro yearlings, with their deep pedigrees, are in great demand.
The Armstrongs opened 1,100 acres in 1979 near Inglewood for the expanding horse operation. Since then, the Armstrong operation has grown to be the largest Standardbred breeding operation in Canada and the second largest in North America. Many of the Armstrong Farms' world champions and stakes winners have become great broodmares.
Elgin Armstrong was director of the Ontario Jockey Club, the Hambletonian Society, the Standardbred Breeders’ Association, and the Hall of Fame of the Trotter. He was 1974 Horseman of the Year and posthumously named a Builder in the City of Brampton Sports Hall of Fame. Elgin Armstrong was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
Elgin Armstrong, of Armstrong Farms and Armbro, has earned a place in the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame.