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Peers reflect on the life of the late Chris Caserta

By Jordan Gerrans

A tireless worker with an infectiously positive personality that is always looking out for his mates.

That is how Chris Caserta’s peers in the racing industry are remembering the late jockey after his sad passing last week on the Gold Coast.

The light-weight hoop, who moved from Victoria to Queensland to further his riding ambitions, was a much-loved member of the riding ranks, with countless jockeys taking to social media or speaking after winning races across the weekend to honour his memory.

While the 26-year-old only lived in the Sunshine State for a short period of time, his impact on the industry and its participants was profound, building close relationships and bonds with countless trainers and jockeys.

R4-Gem-of-the-Lochs-Steven-Wise-Chris-Caserta-9.jpgHoops such as Les Tilley, Jake Bayliss, Sheriden Tomlinson, Jaden Lloyd and Wendy Peel, among others, honoured Caserta after winning across the state since his death was confirmed on Friday morning.

One of the mainstays of the jockeys’ rooms in Queensland, Jim Byrne, said there were many riders doing it tough over the last week after losing one of their own.

The Queensland Jockeys’ Association organised for black armbands to be worn in honour of Caserta in selected races across the state over the weekend, including being on show across the Group and Listed races on Saturday at Doomben.

“He was a lovely guy from what I did have to do with him,” Byrne said.

“It is just devastating for his family, something so innocent, it is just something you do not really expect to see someone of that age gone so quickly.

“The job we do, it is basically life and death every day, it is just unfortunate and devasting for his family.

“I feel sorry for the family as it is right around Christmas time and that is when it is going to hit them hard."

Eagle Farm-based trainer Chris Munce, a jockey himself before taking on the training caper, booked Caserta to ride his gallopers at times and was taken aback by his diligent work ethic.

“Chris was probably one of the hardest working riders you would ever want to see,” Munce said.

“He would come in and was always keen to work, nothing was ever a bother to him, he was a great worker with an excellent work ethic.

“He had a couple of race rides for me and rode them all very well.

“I think what stuck in my mind about the young fella was that he was always polite and obliging and an extremely hard worker.

“You can never begrudge people for their rewards if they work hard.”

While living on the Gold Coast over the last year, Caserta was also a regular rider on the Northern Rivers of NSW, travelling far and wide to establish himself as a top rider in the area.

When based in Victoria earlier in his career, Caserta was a close mentor of rising Queensland apprentice jockey Jaden Lloyd, with Gold Coast-based trainer Toby Edmonds noting the late hoop had a big impact on the son of champion rider Jeff.

“It is very sad for a 26-year-old, it is just tragic what happened,” Edmonds said.

“He was very close to Jaden and Zac Lloyd, he was like a father figure to them basically, Jaden lived with him for quite a while when he was in Victoria as an apprentice – it has hit them quite hard.

“He was a personal guy, always the first to say g’day and never missed a morning.

“It is very sad, unfortunately.”

Like Jaden Lloyd, Charleville product Tilley developed a close relationship with Caserta during time in Victoria, before also crossing paths once again in Queensland over the last 12 months.

Tilley gave his close mate a deserved salute to the heavens as he went past the winning post on bush sprinter V J Day on Saturday.

“Losing our best mate on Wednesday – old Chrissy - it is good to get a winner for him,” Tilley said after he won the Country Stampede on Saturday afternoon at Doomben.

“He was a big inspirational to all of us, he was all of our mates.

“I never heard one person say one bad thing about him, he always had a smile on his face.

“Even if he was down and out, he would always pick you up first.

“Losing him, it was like losing one of our brotherhood.”

Like Tilley winning a metropolitan Saturday race just days after his close mate passed, it was also a fitting result when Far Too Easy claimed the Winning Rupert Plate on Saturday afternoon.

The three-year-old gelding, Far Too Easy, is four victories from five starts in his young career, with Caserta in the saddle for his first two wins.

Far Too Easy’s trainer David McColm noted post-race on Saturday that Caserta was quick to identify the son of All Too Hard had plenty of ability and was keen to stick with him on race day.

While also being a hard worker and a capable rider, most that have reflected on Caserta’s passing have remarked that he was a joy to be around.

“He had a very infectious personality,” Munce said.

“You can tell by all the responses on social media, he touched a large group of people and it was very sad what happened to him.”

As part of Racing Queensland’s Mental Health Support Program, industry participants can access confidential counselling and support services on a 24/7 basis via Benestar on 1300 360 364.