Female jockey who died in 'freak accident' named
The jockey who died after falling from a horse at a Melbourne racecourse has been named.
Mikaela Claridge, who was 22 years old, died after she fell at Cranbourne Racecourse just after 4.30am on Friday.
Her death is not being treated as suspicious and WorkSafe is investigating. Racing Victoria says trackwork at the Cranbourne Training Centre has been suspended and assistance has been offered to the rider's family.
Racing Victoria confirmed that the eight-race meeting at Pakenham has also been called off.
In a statement, the organisation said it is with "great sadness" that the young jockey died doing what she loved.
"Mikaela was dislodged from her horse while riding on the sand trails on the southern side of the Training Centre at approximately 4.35am. She was attended to by the on-course paramedic but was tragically unable to be saved," RV said
The organisation said WorkSafe is on-site and that "no other riders were injured".
"RV, the Victorian Jockeys Association and the Cranbourne Turf Club are offering assistance to the family and local racing community at this tragic time," the statement read.
Witnesses have told the Herald Sun that the atmosphere at the track was "completely eerie" and that "people were crying".
Trainer Ken Keys told the publication Ms Claridge was rising next to another female jockey when something spooked their horses.
"Both horses shied at the same thing, whatever that thing was, it could've been anything, you wouldn't know," he said.
Ms Claridge was inducted into RV's Apprentice Jockey Training Program in 2015 but a back injury interrupted her career and saw her put her racing dreams on hold.
She returned to riding in 2017 and made her racing debut at Wangaratta in August 2018, coming in second.
Ms Claridge won her first race in September last year.
She was indentured to Ken Keys at Cranbourne and won another 28 races, most recently at Sale on July 11.
"On behalf of the Victorian racing industry, I would like to extend our prayers and heartfelt condolences to Mikaela's family and friends on the tragic news of her passing as a result of a training accident this morning," RV chief executive Giles Thompson said.
"Mikaela 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."
Victorian Jockeys Association (VJA) Chief Executive, Matt Hyland, said he and the other members were "incredibly saddened" by the shock death.
"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," Mr Hyland said.
"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."
Tributes have started flowing for the 22-year-old from shocked friends and family.
"Words aren't enough to describe how we all felt this morning, such a freak accident. You were taken to soon beautiful girl, with a gorgeous smile. Mikaela Claridge you will always be in our hearts," one woman wrote on Facebook.
Others described her as having a "smile that would light up any room".
One tribute read: "This is so tragic, just gut wrenching, taken too soon doing what she loves, my heart goes out to her family. A parents worse nightmare."
"Beautiful young lady my heart goes out to all her family as I have known her since she was a young girl doing pony club and just living down the road from me. Her dream was always to be a jockey but so sadly taken away. Ride high in the sky Macca," another person wrote.
"My heart goes out to Mikaela Claridge and all those who knew and loved her. People don't realise that jockeys risk their lives in pursuit of what they love most," one Twitter user said.