A 22-year-old apprentice jockey died on Friday morning as a result of injuries sustained in a trackwork accident in the Australian state of Victoria.
Mikaela Claridge was dislodged from her horse while riding on the sand trails on the southern side of the Cranbourne Training Centre at about 4.35am. She was attended to by the on-course paramedic but was tragically unable to be saved, Racing Victoria (RV) and the Victorian Jockeys Association (VJA) reported.
WorkSafe, with the cooperation of the Cranbourne Turf Club, are investigating the circumstances of the accident.
Trackwork at the training centre was closed following the incident, and Friday’s race meeting at Pakenham was abandoned. Racing Victoria said: “The meeting has been abandoned in the interests of participant welfare and out of respect for the rider and her family.”
Claridge was inducted into RV’s Apprentice Jockey Training Program in 2015 and was apprenticed to trainer Allan Clarke at Hamilton.
A back injury saw her riding career put on hold for an extended period, during which time she undertook and ultimately completed a Bachelor of Primary Education.
“I accepted it (the injury) pretty quickly and decided to take the full year off and do something different to forget about racing for a little while,” she said at the time.
“I’m not the type of person who just likes sitting around and not doing much, so I wanted to do something productive while I wasn’t riding, which was the sensible thing to do.”
Claridge returned to riding trackwork in 2017 having moved to Echuca to ride for trainers Donna Gaskin and Mick Cornish.
She made her race-riding debut at Wangaratta in August 2018 aboard King’s Hand, finishing second, and celebrated her maiden victory aboard the same horse at Echuca on September 6, 2018.
Claridge, who this year transferred her apprenticeship to trainer Ken Keys at Cranbourne, went on to win another 28 races during her short riding career, the most recent at Sale on July 11. She had recently married her fiance, Jamie Ferguson.
RV Chief Executive, Giles Thompson, said Claridge was a talented young rider who was pursuing a career in the sport she loved. “She was a much loved and valuable member of the racing community and her sad passing is being felt by many within our industry today.”
Other racing groups also expressed their condolences, including the Victorian Jockeys Association (VJA), whose Chief Executive Matt Hyland said: “We are all going to miss Mikaela’s bright smile and positive attitude. After injury initially stalled her apprenticeship, she had started to build a really promising riding career over the past 12 months working with horses she loved.
“Our thoughts and prayers at this time are with Mikaela’s family, friends and fellow riders who we are supporting in association with Racing Victoria and the National Jockeys Trust.”
Cranbourne Turf Club (CTC) Chief Executive Neil Bainbridge said Claridge was a popular member of the Cranbourne racing community and would be sadly missed. “This was a tragic accident and one that has deeply saddened all at the Cranbourne Turf Club and our local racing community.”
RV, VJA, the CTC, Country Racing Victoria (CRV) and the National Jockeys Trust are working together to support Claridge’s family, the local racing community and industry employees with counselling and support.
Members of the racing industry are encouraged to use the free, confidential counselling service STABLELINE on 1300 530 122 if they need of support.