Racing News

Stefano Cherchi dies aged 23 after race fall in Canberra

Stefano Cherchi has died two weeks on from suffering serious injuries in a fall at Canberra. He was 23.

Cherchi was placed in an induced coma after suffering head injuries and internal bleeding when his mount Hasime (Denman) fell during a race at Thoroughbred Park on March 20. He was one of three jockeys dislodged from their mounts in the incident, the other two riders Jeff Penza and Shaun Guymer avoided injury, as did all the horses involved.

A post on X from the New South Wales Jockeys Association read: “With deep sadness, the Cherchi family have announced their beloved son Stefano passed away peacefully today. 

“The family are very grateful for the love, prayers and messages sent by the racing community across the world.”

His parents and his girlfriend Brittany Fallon, daughter of former champion jockey Kieren Fallon, were at his bedside. They had been joined in Australia by fellow jockey, Hong Kong-based Andrea Atzeni, a mentor to Cherchi.

On Thursday last week prayers were offered for Cherchi during a service at the Sanctuary of Sant’Ignazio da Laconi in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, where he was born, by the Capuchin friars.

Reacting to the devastating news, Annabel Neasham, who Cherchi had ridden for during his time in Australia, posted on X: “Rest in Peace Stefano. We will miss your infectious personality and that cheeky smile. Our whole team are utterly heartbroken and have all our love and thoughts with his beautiful family.”

Cherchi, who was an apprentice with Marco Botti in the UK, rode 106 winners in Britain before relocating to Australia at the start of this year. He had been based at Warwick Farm and his close friend and fellow rider Eoin Walsh said that Cherchi had talked about the possibility of planning to extend his stay. 

Botti, who teamed up with Cherchi for 38 winners, said: “He’s always been a really charming guy and I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about him. He was polite and always had a smile on his face. He had so many friends and always had time for other people, he was that kind of guy. He wasn’t just a jockey, he was a great friend and we’re thinking about his family.”

Cherchi moved from Botti to become Amy Murphy’s apprentice two years ago and his presence provided a huge lift at her Newmarket yard.

He rode ten winners for Murphy, who said: “It’s absolutely devastating beyond belief. He had his whole life ahead of him and it’s so cruel he’s had that snatched away from him. In his loving memory, we’ll remember all the fabulous times we’ve had.”

Since he started riding in NSW, Cherchi had ridden two winners from limited opportunities, his last coming on March 16 when successful aboard the Robert Quinn-trained Flying Bat (Flying Artie) in a Gosford maiden.

Cherchi made his race-riding debut in August 2018 and rode his first winner the following April aboard the Botti-trained Withoutdestination (Epaulette) at Wolverhampton.

He enjoyed one of his biggest moments when partnering Maximilian Caesar (Holy Roman Emperor) to victory in a handicap at last year’s English St Leger meeting at Doncaster, beating the Ryan Moore-ridden Westerton (Belardo) in a photo-finish. A month later, he returned to that track to have a first Group 1 ride aboard Redhot Whisper (Too Darn Hot) in the Futurity Trophy (Gr 1, 1m), finishing seventh.

The jockey – who came close to a Group-race breakthrough when finishing second on Great Generation (Holy Roman Emperor) in Ayr’s Firth Of Clyde Stakes (Gr 3, 6f) in September – also enjoyed winners at some of the UK’s biggest tracks, including Ascot, Newbury, Sandown, and both Newmarket tracks.

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