Champion jockey Katsidis farewelled

The fiancee of Stathi Katsidis has broken down at his funeral, describing the champion jockey as an “infectious” man with a huge smile who “taught me so much in life”.

Melissa Jackson found her fiance dead in their home at Hendra on Brisbane’s northside last week.

More than 1000 people attended the funeral in his home town of Toowoomba on Tuesday.

Unable to hold back tears, Ms Jackson said Stathi was her “sunshine on a rainy day” and she couldn’t imagine her life without him.

“He was my best friend, my soul mate,” she said.

“He was infectious, everyone thought that he was their best mate.

“I’ll always remember his big white smile … I can’t imagine my life without him. He was my sunshine on a rainy day, he taught me so much in life,” she said.

“He gave me wings and now I will be able to soar.”

The informal ceremony at the Toowoomba Community Baptist Church was also attended by hundreds of members of southeast Queensland’s racing community, dozens of jockeys and racing identities from around the nation.

Katsidis’ manager Trevor Lanskey spoke of a true professional who rode to superstardom.

Katsidis had an “amazing ability to charm his way into people’s hearts”, Mr Lanskey said.

“He was a loyal and trusting friend who would do anything for anyone.”

Lanskey said Katsidis had returned to racing 18 months ago, “no longer what some people considered a loose cannon, but a man who was determined to make a good life for himself”.

He said Katsidis could be in perfect harmony when on a horse.

“Not only was he a champion rider, but a true horseman,” he said.

“He could also see how a race would evolve.”

Family friend Tony Dever, meanwhile, paid tribute to a special man.

“Let us not remember the way Stathi died, let’s remember the way Stathi lived,” he said.

Ms Jackson’s father Tony Jackson, speaking on behalf of the family, told reporters the size of the attendance was a measure of the man.

“Stathi touched the hearts of a lot of people in his short but very filled life as a jockey and as a person,” he said.

Dozens of coloured balloons were given to mourners as Katsidis’ white coffin, emblazoned with his helmet, racing silks and white gloves, was loaded into the hearse.

One balloon, having escaped a hand in the crowd, drifted up towards the overcast sky ahead of the rest.

Katsidis was the regular partner of Melbourne Cup contender Shoot Out, who ran fourth in last Saturday’s Cox Plate at Moonee Valley with Corey Brown aboard.

Autopsy results on Katsidis have failed to determine an exact cause of death.

Katsidis had spent a night drinking heavily at home before his death and had a history of drug problems.

He was a three-time Brisbane premiership winner.

In January 2010, he won the $2 million Magic Millions Classic (1200m) at the Gold Coast on Military Rose.

Katsidis rode Shoot Out to victory in the 2010 AJC Australian Derby and Randwick Guineas.