Police find body of missing Caserta
The Victorian Jockeys’ Association has confirmed police have found the body of missing jockey Chris Caserta.
The 26-year-old jockey had not been seen since Wednesday night, when he was taken by a rip after going for a late-night swim with a friend on the Gold Coast.
His friend, a trackwork rider, managed to get to shore, but Caserta was unable to do so and wasn’t seen again.
A frantic search began shortly after and continued through to Thursday until Queensland Police confirmed they had moved from trying to find Caserta to recovering his body.
Tragically, it was confirmed on Friday morning that police had located Caserta’s body.
“The Victorian Jockeys’ Association is heartbroken by the news of Chris Caserta’s sudden passing,” VJA CEO Matt Hyland said.
“Chris was a popular member of Victoria’s riding ranks and will always be remembered for the big smile he always had on his face.
“While Chris rode in numerous states, he started his apprenticeship in Victoria. He always showed natural talent as not only a jockey, but as an athlete and sportsperson.
“Chris is from a wonderful family. Our hearts go out to them, Chris’ friends and everyone else that was touched by him.
“The racing industry will wrap their arms around Chris’ family and give them all the support that is needed. Our hearts and thoughts go out to them in such a tragic time.”
Speaking on behalf of Caserta’s family including father Robert and mother Lucia, Hyland said they were appreciative of all the support they had received.
‘’Over the past 48, I have been in constant contact with Chris’ father Robert, who is extremely appreciative of all the support of Racing Victoria, the Victorian Jockey’s Association and right throughout, but he said the family was naturally devastated over their loss,” Hyland said.
‘’In some ways now, hopefully, they can have some sort of closure.
‘’What a 48 hours it’s been for them? Unimaginable.’’
Tributes flowed for the popular jockey, who was remembered by those in the industry as someone who always had a big smile on his face.
Father-in-law and trainer Steve Wise said Caserta had always been an ‘absolute gentleman’ after meeting him when he was based as a trainer in Albury.
“Chris was more than a great jockey to me, as he was also my son in-law and an all-round great guy,” Wise said.
“To Chris, family was everything.
“He was so excited this week, as he had just become an uncle for the first time with his brother having a beautiful baby, and he was so proud. I feel so much for his parents and siblings at this time.
“He has left a hole that will never be filled.”
Mentor and coach James Winks paid tribute to ‘a good mate’.
“Chris was a gentleman throughout his journey with me, always eager to learn, listen, and apply everything thrown at him,” Winks wrote.
“He had so much enthusiasm and love for the sport, and I’m shattered that his life has come to an end far too early.
“My deepest condolences go out to his entire family and all his friends. RIP champ until we meet again.”
Former jockey and friend Stacey Rawiller described Caserta as a ‘little bro’, sharing an emotional video of the fun times the pair had enjoyed together.
“Thank you for all of the amazing memories and laughs we shared. You touched every single person you met along the way,” she wrote.
Injured jockey Michael Walker also left a touching tribute on Facebook.
“R I P CUZ my condolences and love got out to your family! You were such a polite and well liked guy on and off the track , you’ll be surely missed cuz and till I see you again,” Walker wrote.
The Australian Jockeys’ Association said Caserta’s cheerful demeanor meant he was universally liked throughout the racing industry.
“(He) was hugely popular amongst his colleagues wherever he went and rode,” AJA chairman Craig Staples said.
Racing Victoria Chief Executive, Giles Thompson, said: “On behalf of the Victorian racing industry, I would like to extend our prayers and heartfelt condolences to Chris’s family and friends on the tragic news of his passing.
“Chris was a very popular member of the jockey cohort and a talented young rider who was always seen with a smile on his face.
“His passing is being felt by many within our industry.”
Racing Queensland CEO Brendan Parnell said said: “First and foremost, our sincerest condolences are extended to the Caserta family and our thoughts are with them at this tragic time.
“The loss of any life is very sad, and at just 26 and with a bright future ahead of him, his loss will be strongly felt by the entire racing community, particularly the Gold Coast fraternity.
“In lieu of the circumstances, Racing Queensland will provide support services for industry participants who are grieving Chris’ loss. It’s important that we rally together and for our participants to be supported.
“We were all hoping that Chris would be found safe and well, but our worst fears have been confirmed, and as an industry, we will grieve his loss.”
Meanwhile, jockeys at The Valley on Friday night and Mornington on Friday afternoon will pay tribute to Caserta by wearing black armbands in Race 4.
Racing Queensland also confirmed jockeys would wear black arm bands in selected races across the state in honour of Caserta.