A day after Mikaela Claridge died from injuries suffered in a trackwork accident at Cranbourne, jockeys around the country have paid their respects to the apprentice rider.
Jockeys competing in the second races at Victorian meetings at Caulfield and Warracknabeal on Saturday wore black armbands while interstate riders did likewise at Rosehill in Sydney and Eagle Farm in Brisbane.
One of Melbourne’s leading jockeys, Dwayne Dunn, delivered heartfelt condolences to 22-year-old Claridge’s family and friends after riding Dawn Dawn to victory in the second race at Caulfield.
“I didn’t have much to do with Mikaela but she was a young girl who had so much opportunity ahead of her,” Dunn said.
“She had an infectious smile and I think the industry are really lost for words for what has happened.
“Condolences to Mikaela’s family and her friends, and the racing industry in general because it’s pretty tough.
“It’s hard to go to work and never come home.
“It probably makes us realise how dangerous this sport can be and you’ve just got to lap up every moment you can when you’re successful and the things when they go bad probably aren’t as bad as you think.”
Claridge had her first race ride in August last year and won her first race at Echuca the following month before adding another 28 victories.
Earlier this year the recently married Claridge transferred her indentures to Ken Keys at Cranbourne.
Keys was at Saturday’s Caulfield meeting to watch his mare Spanish Reef who was unplaced in the Cockram Stakes, and said he and his family were still coming to terms with Claridge’s death.
“We’re struggling a bit,” Keys said.
“She was a kid I think was going somewhere, but I purposely held her back.
“She was only with us for six months but in the last two months she was really starting to understand it (riding).
“She understood why we weren’t letting her go to wherever for a ride and I thought the future was all there for her.
“And she was a genuine nice person.”
Sydney jockey Tim Clark, who won Saturday’s second race at Rosehill on Wimlah, said Claridge’s death put everything else in perspective.
“It was obviously a tragic incident yesterday,” Clark said.
“I don’t think many of us guys here knew her, but it is still very sad and our condolences go out to her family.”
In Brisbane, senior rider Michael Cahill, who rode a winning double at Eagle Farm, said when any rider was killed or injured all jockeys felt it.
“To lose someone who had so much ahead of her was so sad,” he said.