'Not the same as an office job': 19-year-old Islander enjoying life as harness racer

P.E.I.'s Austin Sorrie is only 19, but he's already making a name for himself in the harness racing world.

He was named rookie driver of the year last year at Red Shores, and is competing this year at the Western Fair in London, Ont., where he's already made about $200,000.

It's a job he's loved since he was 13 years old growing up in a harness racing family near Montague.

"You're around the horses all day, it's not the same as an office job or outdoor job doing something else," he said in an interview with CBC Radio's Island Morning. "You're in the barn, you're with the horses all day and it's just a great job."

Sorrie is back on P.E.I. for Old Home Week. He's racing his own horse, JJ Powerball, in the overnight races Saturday, but one day hopes to be racing in the Gold Cup and Saucer final. 

Laura Chapin/CBC

"It's like everybody wants to win the Little Brown Jug and all them races but the Gold Cup's like the Little Brown Jug to me, that's the one I want. And it don't go for half as much money as other races do but it's the atmosphere, it's everybody's here, lights go out, you do the spotlight. This is the race I want to win."

The Little Brown Jug is a harness race in Delaware, Ohio.

Sorrie started racing the matinee tracks at 13. When he turned 18 he graduated to Red Shores, and set the rookie record at the track with 32 wins.

Down here if you're real good you're a big fish in a little pond and up there you're a little fish in a real big pond. — Austin Sorrie

But he said he could make more money in Ontario.

"If I stayed here you have to work two jobs and I want to be with the horses full time and up there there's just more of a chance to make a better living," he said. "You can race here and you can get $10,000 and you race up there for three months and you make 20."

Works with Patrick Shepherd

Working with trainer Patrick Shepherd, who is also from P.E.I., Sorrie already has 37 wins in Ontario this year, winning three times in the same night on two separate occasions.

It's "way different" racing in Ontario, he said. 

"Down here if you're real good you're a big fish in a little pond and up there you're a little fish in a real big pond."

Sorrie would eventually like to race at Mohawk in Toronto or Yonkers in New York, but said he doesn't feel pressure to follow in the footsteps of P.E.I. harness racing stars Wally Hennessey and Mark MacDonald.

"I kind of take it as my own pace. Whatever's going to happen is going to happen."

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