Racing is in Austy's blood

For Austy Coffey, horses are in his blood.

Life in the racing industry is a real family affair for Swan Hill trainer Austy Coffey. Picture: AARON COOPER

Life in the racing industry is a real family affair for Swan Hill trainer Austy Coffey. Picture: AARON COOPER

It was what his parents did, what he and most of his nine other siblings do, and what his two sons love. 

Having grown up as the youngest of 10 siblings on the outskirts of Birchip, Mr Coffey recalls his childhood throughout the Mallee and Wimmera as one of good fun. 

"We had a couple of horses out in Birchip growing up," he said.

Mr Coffey has just finished his biggest week of the year, following the conclusion of the June Racing Carnival. 

The Swan Hill trainer's son Harry partnered his pair of winners — Dunga's Dude on day two and Fashion Style on Cup Day — ensuring the family name was booming through the speakers to the thousands of racegoers trackside.

"Harry would be my highlight from the weekend," Mr Coffey said.

Mr Coffey recalls the moment his son galloped across the line first with the pride of any father whose son has succeeded in the family business. 

However, Mr Coffey missed the opportunity to witness the win of Fashion Style, who broke her maiden status when she saluted at 50-1 odds. 

"We had a horse loose in the stables while Harry was racing (with Fashion Style), so I missed the win!" he said. 

Mr Coffey hopes his other son Sam, who was one of this year's carnival ambassadors, may opt for a different path and take up tertiary studies.

Sam Coffey has been involved in the family passion in other ways, helping out in the stables and assisting his dad where he can. 

"(Sam) has done some riding, but I hope maybe next year he will go to university," he said.

The weekend was not just a big one for the Coffey clan, considered local racing royalty, but also for the town. 

Mr Coffey saddled up 16 runners across the three days, with the wins of Dunga's Dude and Fashion Style, complemented by great runs from Turf Talk (second), Our Mallee Hoff (second), Top of the Bunch (third) and Presidential Joy (third).

He said it was great to feel the support of friends from his home town of Birchip, and the community of Swan Hill rallying around his family during the carnival. 

"I think all the local trainers get behind each other a bit more at the Swan Hill carnival," he said.

Fellow Swan Hill trainers Jane Duncan and Con Kelly also enjoyed memorable wins at carnival time, while Nathan Hobson's charge Don't Get Excited ran a game third behind winner Victory Downs in Sunday's Swan Hill Cup.

Mr Coffey compared the feeling of success during the annual Swan Hill carnival to a grand final victory.

Among his career highs from more than three decades in the horse racing industry were the win of Harryallards Lane at Flemington on September 3, 2005 and The Ruckman's triumph in the 2011 Marma Cup at Murtoa.

But Mr Coffey's greatest pride rests with his wife Maree, his children and their achievements.

Talking about his son Harry's health battle with Cystic Fibrosis, Mr Coffey displays nothing but admiration and pride for the man he has raised. 

"It was just determination," he said.

Harry, 21, takes more than 30 pills and trains daily to maintain his health, all so he can stay in the saddle. 

Mr Coffey recalls when his son expressed an interest in competitive horse racing at the age of 15, little did he know in just six short years Harry would have more than 300 winners to his name, including two Group 3 successes.

The passion for the industry was not something that came upon Mr Coffey, but rather a love that grew overtime. 

"I have been involved with horses since I left school," he said. 

Mr Coffey has worked as a qualified farrier and has transitioned into horse training throughout the years. 

Although this past weekend proved a winning one, Mr Coffey concedes that racing is a tough industry. 

When asked what the future holds, he simply says "to survive, look for the next good horse."

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