Paige Austin on balancing two careers, having a horse in the Mohawk Million in her first year training

by Chris Lomon

Support is rarely more than a horse length away for Paige Austin.

Whether it was in the days leading up to her first starter or in the times since then, the young standardbred trainer, and daughter of late trainer Mark Austin, has always felt a genuine sense of encouragement and kindness from those closest to her.

This July, all of that was on display at Woodbine Mohawk Park when Hasty Bid, a horse she co-owns with the 1000063663 Ontario Inc. group, delivered her a milestone moment with fiancé James MacDonald in the race bike.

“It was really fun,” said Austin, of the trotter’s 3 ½-length score in a second leg of the Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots series. “Having James drive the horse was extra special too. My mom and sister were there. They had come to Clinton too for my first race, just in case we got the win in the first start. We got it in the second, so no complaints. Having my family there was really important and I know my dad was watching from above. It was very emotional, but I know he’d be proud.”

And not only for what his daughter has achieved in her short time as a trainer.

Aside from her harness racing career, Austin is a Registered Practical Nurse, a graduate of Conestoga College in 2019, who specialized in medical and surgical nursing during her studies. Currently, she works at the Guelph Skin Clinic.

It’s a busy life balancing two careers, but Austin is fully prepared to handle the rigors of both.

“I’ve always loved being around the horses. I’ve worked for [trainer] Carmen Auciello, paddocking at nights for him, for about six or seven years now. When we decided to buy Hasty Bid at Harrisburg last year, it meant there would be longer days.”

It’s by no means a complaint.

While she maintains a modest stable, Austin has enjoyed success with the aforementioned Hasty Bid.

The son of My MVP was a $35,000 Harrisburg purchase for the partnership. He is out of Garland Lobell mare Sunshinenlollipops, who won the Casual Breeze in her first of four career starts.

Hasty Bid has gone 2-2-1 from eight career dashes and finished fourth in this year’s edition of the prestigious Mohawk Million on Sept. 24.

“We liked him a lot, but there are no guarantees that a horse will even make the races. Once he did, after a few training starts, it was an amazing feeling to see him out there competing. And when he won, it was even better than you could imagine. He’s a tough horse and he loves to race. Everybody wants a horse like that. Win or lose, they go out and give their all.”

Austin, less than a dozen starts into her conditioning role, understood well before that first race at Clinton what to expect in the rollercoaster world of racing.

“It’s tough having horses, which is why you have no choice but to take things day by day. That was our outlook with Hasty Bid. What was he going to be? Would he be a Grassroots horse or a Gold horse? You look at trying to keep the horse sound, preparing them the best you can and then work with them to bring out their very best.”

Maintaining a small stable is the goal for the foreseeable future.

Austin recently added another horse to her barn, a $53,000 purchase at the recent London Classic Yearling Sale.

She’s excited at the prospect of seeing what’s in store for Blarney Castle, a trotting son of My MVP—Fighting Irish, she bought with MacDonald.

“It will be nice to see how this horse pans out for us. It’s always fun when you get to develop the babies. I think two horses is probably max for me because of my other job. There is a lot of organization that needs to happen with our respective careers. We’re fortunate to have a great caretaker, Teresa Large, who looks after ‘Hasty.’ She’s a vital part of the success.”

As for Hasty Bid, Austin is hoping 2023 yields even more memorable results.

“We’re really hoping he comes back next year and competes in the Gold series and on the Grand Circuit. He showed that he is capable of that this year. We’re going to pay him up for whatever we can and hope he comes back even stronger. He’ll enjoy some time off, recharge and then we’ll prepare for next year.”

It’s also a pleasant thought for the horse racing couple.

When they’re not at the racetrack or the barn, Austin and MacDonald form their own cheering section of sorts, sitting in the stands for various live sporting events in Toronto and beyond.

It is, she offered, a welcome chance to watch others do the competing.

“We try to do things together as much as we can, especially on Sundays. A couple weekends ago, we went to the Buffalo Bills game – we’re big sports fans – and we’ve also gone to Blue Jays and Maple Leafs games, too. We try to get away in the winter as well, head south for a week and try to get out of the cold for a bit. But horse racing, it’s addicting, and we don’t want to be away from it for too long.”

As for what she’s most proud of so far in her career, Austin takes brief pause to ponder the question.

Her answer speaks volumes about her adoration for the sport and its stars.

“I think out of everything, I’m the proudest of Hasty Bid. He’s been so great, and he’s really tried every start. Every time he’s on the racetrack, he gives it his all. We’re very grateful for what he’s done for us.”

A compliment Austin also directs to others.

“I’m really happy that my family has been part of all this too. My sister has really taken a liking to racing again and has come out to every one of Hasty Bid’s starts. I’m really proud that my family can enjoy everything with me too. To have everybody there, it’s really fun. It makes it all more special.”

With the Holiday season drawing nearer, Austin doesn’t have her wish list filled out yet.

While she won’t find it under the tree or be able to open it, there is one thing she would gladly accept.

“Well, maybe one of those Grand Circuit wins next year with Hasty Bid would be nice.”