Canterbury harness racing driver loses cancer battle

Katie Cox pased away yesterday, aged 34. Photo: Harness Racing New Zealand
Katie Cox pased away yesterday, aged 34. Photo: Harness Racing New Zealand
Family, friends and industry leaders have paid tribute to top Canterbury harness racing driver Katie Cox after she lost her battle with lung cancer.

Cox died yesterday, aged 34.

The New Zealand Herald revealed last year Cox had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer - one which primarily affects young female non-smokers.

The news came after Cox, who is from Leeston, went to the doctor for antibiotics for an ongoing cough.

Initially, she thought nothing of the cough she developed in early September. At the time, Cox said she could count the number of times she had been to a doctor on one hand.

Training and driving harness racing horses had kept her fit and healthy. But the cough stuck around and by late September, she had developed chest pains, prompting her to go to the doctor.

“All it was was a bit of a cough, bit of a winter cough, you know it wasn’t that much. I just thought I’ll go to the doctor and get some antibiotics,” Cox said in December last year.

“When it showed my lung was a bit blocked there was a possibility it could have just been a bit of grit or something off the track. It wasn’t until they did the CT scan and biopsy that we knew it was cancerous.”

On learning of Cox’s condition, her colleagues in the harness-racing community launched a fundraising effort to help her pay for treatment that was not publicly funded. More than $130,000 was raised.

After news of her death, Trackside NZ posted a tribute to Cox: "From all at Trackside, we pass on our sincerest condolences to Katie Cox's family and friends. One of the many special moments she created in the 2023 Welcome Stakes with her horse It's Tough. Rest In Peace, Katie."

The NZ Harness Trainers & Drivers Association said: "On behalf of the NZHT&D Association, we would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family and loved ones on the passing of Katie Cox, who passed peacefully (yesterday) morning. Katie epitomised all that was good in a human being; skilful, dedicated, optimistic and humble, all traits she bought to the sport of harness racing, which was her passion. Katie was appreciative of the support she received throughout her illness, and her passing is a great loss to all who knew her. RIP Katie."

Whatever with Wiggy, a charity that supports rural well-being and physical health, posted a letter from Cox's mother Wendy: "It is with the heaviest of broken hearts our loved Katie passed peacefully away (yesterday) morning. She approached cancer and the myriad of drugs she took to get through this with determination, integrity and tenacity. Her spirit was willing and she was still giving a few directives on Spy Da Moment’s times to be worked today as she was entering the ambulance.

"Katie was still managing to drive horses at home with the help of her great support team, however the high dose steroids she was on to deal with the drug toxicity in her lungs showed a form of pneumonia on Monday from the blood test and CT scan. That night she started on strong antibiotics and knew the next four days were going to be difficult to get through. As determined as she was, and being on direct oxygen and concentrators her lungs struggled with getting enough oxygen and she passed away peacefully (yesterday) morning. Katie was so appreciative of the fantastic support from all who knew her, and supporters she hadn’t even met.

"A date will be announced for a memorial to Katie’s life...and as per her request not on a trials or race day."