The Australian racing community is mourning the death of apprentice jockey Mikaela Claridge during routine trackwork.
The 22-year-old, who was married in March, died from undisclosed injuries in an accident at the Cranbourne training centre in southeast Melbourne on Friday morning.
The centre was then closed for training and the afternoon race meeting at Pakenham was cancelled as the news of the incident broke with officials offering counselling and support to those in need.
Victorian Jockeys Association chief executive Matt Hyland said it was too soon to speculate on the cause of the fall which happened on the sand trails at Cranbourne shortly after 4.30am.
“Mikaela was an extremely popular girl and she was embarking on what was going to be a successful career, and she was just finding her feet and getting going,” Hyland said.
“It’s just an incredibly sad day.
“Obviously it’s a WorkSafe situation at the minute and that will all play out over the next week.”
Hyland said Racing Victoria and the VJA had been in contact with many participants to offer counselling and support.
“There is a lot of people with a heavy heart today in our community of jockeys, not just in Victoria but it stretches far and wide,” he said.
“I guess all we can do is rally around people.
“Rally around all the participants that we are aware of that may be struggling and I’d just urge them to certainly contact Racing Victoria, and contact our association and we’ll offer whatever assistance we can.”
Claridge began her apprenticeship in 2015 and was first based in country Victoria.
After injury interrupted her career, Claridge returned to riding in 2018 and won her first race in September last year.
She had transferred her indentures to Ken Keys at Cranbourne and won another 28 races, most recently at Sale on July 11.
Victorian racing will resume at Caulfield on Saturday for the official start of the spring carnival as participants come to terms with Claridge’s death.
“It gives the industry a chance to come together, the community to come together,” Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson said.
“And also we’ll be providing any support participants need at the tracks tomorrow and ensure we get through the day tomorrow as best we can.”
Many members of the racing community used Twitter to express their sorrow, including leading Sydney rider Tommy Berry.
“A very dark day for our industry. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved in the industry, close friends and the family of this beautiful young lady taken from us to soon #RIP.” Berry said.
Country NSW jockey Brodie Loy pledged his support for the National Jockeys Trust.
“We have a great book of rides at the moment next Friday at Canberra all my riding fees & percentages will go to the @JockeysTrust for my beautiful friend who lost her life this morning the most kind hearted soul in the world” Loy said.