Harry Coffey put his whip away and stayed at the family farm during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic and the person with cystic fibrosis admits he only returned to racing when he ran out of money .
It is a remarkable journey that led the popular young jockey to clinch his first round of the Melbourne Cup and it will only come a few days after his participation in the Wycheproof Cup on Saturday.
It is highly doubtful that anyone who made the Cup at Wycheproof, three hours from Melbourne in northwest Victoria, supported the Melbourne Cup.
But we’ll get to that later.
Coffey may have run the Melbourne Cup at Port Guillaume, for brothers Ben and JD Hayes, but it wasn’t that long ago that he wasn’t riding at all.
Warned by doctors that his cystic fibrosis placed him in a high risk category as the pandemic hit Australia, Coffey withdrew from the race for several months to keep himself cotton and safe.
Cystic fibrosis is an incurable, life-limiting disease that affects the lungs and digestive system.
“When Covid hit our world and no one really knew what was going to happen, my doctor told me it was not worth the risk for me and that there were too many uncertainties with the virus for me to can risk myself, ”Coffey told News Corp. Australia.
“I’ve spent my whole life listening to doctors and they’ve brought me here when I have a disease like the one I have, so why would I stop listening to them when a pandemic hits?
Harry Coffey returns to scale after winning the Bendigo Cup last Wednesday aboard Wentwood. Image: Race photos via Getty Images
“It turned out that with the way the government locked everyone up it probably would’ve been safe enough to get out and ride and especially given the amazing protocols the races had in place.
“But I made the decision not to mix in public places and not to race through the countryside.
“What made me come back was that I ran out of money.
“We bought a little property in Swan Hill and we did a lot of work there and I spent a lot of money, so the pot (of money) was starting to dry up.
“No matter how you look at it, you need the money and riding was my livelihood.
“The race had its own little bubble and I called the medics and they said if I thought it was safe to do it then it was OK to come back.
“Once I was doubly vaccinated and was one of the first people to do so because of my condition, I’ve been one step ahead since then. ”
It will be Coffey’s first Melbourne Cup race on Tuesday, but he felt he was within touching distance of the big race several years ago when the then apprentice was booked for Signoff until that this galloper turns bad.
Coffey will have a very different preparation than most Melbourne Cup hoops – he will ride American Soul for his father Austy in the Wycheproof Cup on Saturday.
Harry Coffey competes in the Wycheproof Cup on Saturday, then the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday. Image: Getty Images
The Wycheproof Cup is offering $ 30,000 in prizes, Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup is worth $ 7.75 million.
Coffey thinks his father’s other horse in the Wycheproof Cup (category five) is a better prospect.
“People think because I’m going to Wycheproof I have to go for this horse but that’s not a certainty – Daddy’s other horse probably has better luck,” Coffey said with a laugh.
“Originally I was going to Flemington on Saturday to ride a in (Group 1) Cantala but that horse didn’t end up accepting so we went to Plan B, daddy was able to throw me a bone at Wycheproof.
“I rode at Traralgon the same day last year, but every two years I rode at Wycheproof and rode my first winner at Wycheproof.”
So what about the Coffey’s Melbourne Cup race?
Lindsay Park Import placed 10th at the Caulfield Cup and currently has a $ 101 chance on the first Tuesday in November.
But Coffey thinks he may be a better hope than that.
“I think he will be much better suited at 3200 (m), we have a long way back in the Caulfield Cup so I hope I don’t give him such a task this time around,” said Coffey.
“I have watched the Melbourne Cup for years and years and have always thought and asked if I would have a chance to participate in it someday.
“Tuesday I have the chance to win a ticket to the lottery.”