Echuca’s Newton stable honours a good friend

By Riverine Herald

ECHUCA’S Newton family loves to win; but Saturday’s success in the Mikaela Claridge & Mel Tyndall Handicap at Donald was a race they never wanted to see run.

When the Micheal Newton trained Bijou Belle crossed the line Kate Newton, who was representing her father on the day could not help but shed a tear.

Just as her father was back in Echuca, watching his 20/1 rank outsider get up to win.

Both of them not only knew Mikaela, Kate rode trackwork with her nearly every morning for the two years the apprentice jockey was with the Cornish/Gaskin stable in Echuca.

Kate said Mikaela also did a lot of jump-outs and trials for her father and grandfather (Alan), who had been very supportive of her when she first started riding.

“We spent the better part of two years, getting up in the dark and getting to Mick and Donna’s (Cornish/Gaskin) for trackwork and we became good friends,” Kate said.

“It was lovely to see an Echuca stable win this race but it was sad, and yes, it was very emotional – I remember it being such a sudden thing when it happened last year,” she said.

The race was run as part of the national Jockey Celebration Day, with another one bearing the same name run at Moonee Valley. The day was recognised at 20 tracks around Australia – a litany of the all-too-real dangers that face jockeys in virtually ever aspect of their industry.

Micheal Newton said although he had cheered his horse all the way through the race he had “tears in my eyes” as he watched his horse win.

Mikaela Claridge. Photo: Racing Photos.

He was watching the race on TV after Kate took over race day and he focused on looking after the horses in Echuca.

“When it got to me I knew it would have got Kate as well,” Newton said.

Mikaela died in a trackwork fall at Cranbourne racecourse in August last year. Mel Tyndall was killed in a bad race fall in Darwin the next day.

Mikaela also had strong connections with Gwenda Johnstone.

In fact she was booked to ride Melveen for the Echuca trainer on the day she died.

The two had spoken on the Thursday night, Mikaela signing off with “see you at Benalla”.

A few hours later the apprentice jockey was dead, thrown from a spooked horse while riding track work at Cranbourne.

For Gwenda and husband Mick, the phone call early that Friday morning to tell them the “little ray of sunshine” they had affectionately nicknamed Cabbage was gone turned their world upside down.

Just a few months earlier they were at her wedding to school teacher Jamie Ferguson.

One phone call later they were waiting to hear when they would be going to her funeral.