Huge punishment after jockey’s death
A Melbourne horse training company has been fined $350,000 and convicted after the death of an aspiring female jockey in 2019.
Mikaela Claridge, 22, was riding trackwork in the early-hour darkness at the Cranbourne Turf Club on August 30 when she and a friend were thrown from their thoroughbreds at about 4.35am.
The apprentice rider sustained critical injuries and died at the scene while her companion, Jaimee Hayes, landed on her knees and observed Claridge’s horse running into nearby bushes.
Saloon Park Pty Ltd, who employed Claridge, was found guilty by a jury in the County Court of Victoria last month of failing to provide a safe working environment.
In sentencing Saloon Park in the same court on Friday, Judge Peter Rozen said the company’s riders were instructed to perform trackwork on the sand trails at the Cranbourne Turf Club, located in Melbourne’s southeast, every Friday at 4am.
He said thoroughbreds were a “flighty and temperamental” breed of horse, and horses had better night-time vision than humans, meaning they were more susceptible to their external environments.
Judge Rozen said Claridge was a “remarkable young woman” whose career as jockey was “starting to bear fruit”.
He said Saloon Park could have prevented its riders from performing trackwork in the dark, and the risks of doing so were “obvious and entirely avoidable”.
Earlier this year, the Cranbourne Turf Club was convicted and fined $250,000 over the same incident after it pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws.
Judge Rozen said the culpability of Saloon Park was “just as high” as the Cranbourne Turf Club.
He said it had been submitted previously by counsel for Saloon Park that they would struggle to pay a significant fine.
Claridge’s family and supporters packed the courtroom on Friday.
Judge Rozen granted a stay of six months in which the fine was to be paid, after which he said the company could seek an instalment order.