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Campbell Gillies

Published on 30 June 2012

Jockey;

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Born: June 27, 1990; Died: June 26, 2012.

Campbell Gillies, who has drowned aged 21 in a swimming accident on holiday in Corfu, was a National Hunt jockey who was tipped to reach the top in his field.

Just three months ago he became the pride of Scotland when he rode Brindisi Breeze, trained by Lucinda Russell at Milnathort, to win the three-mile Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival. The win was largely down to the brilliance in the saddle of Gillies, who placed Brindisi Breeze correctly at all the hurdles then kept the brave gelding owned by Sandy Seymour in front all the way to the line.

Practically the first words the victorious jockey said was that the win was "fantastic for Scottish racing". It was certainly a fabulous day for Scottish punters who had backed the six-year-old hurdler to beat the hot favourite Boston Bob, who eventually finished second under the Irish jockey Ruby Walsh. Both he and champion jockey Tony McCoy were among the first to congratulate Gillies.

It seems almost inconceivable that the jockey and horse are no longer with us. Brindisi Breeze was killed five weeks ago after he got out of his box at Russell's Arlary Stables and was struck by a lorry.

The human tragedy is much greater, however. To lose a fine young man who amply demonstrated that he had the skills and qualities to make a great jockey is hard to bear for everyone at Arlary and throughout Scottish racing.

The outpouring of grief is both for the loss of his potential and the passing of a popular young man described simply by Lucinda Russell as "a lovely lad".

That Gillies could have reached the highest echelon of jumps jockey was beyond doubt. He had already ridden 131 winners from just over 1100 rides over jumps in four seasons. He also had two winners on the Flat.

Gillies came from a sports-mad family in Haddington, East Lothian. His sister Rita was a talented pony rider who went on to the British Racing School. She has recently battled back from serious illness.

His brother Finlay played for Haddington Rugby Club and Heriot's before signing for Glasgow Warriors, where he is tipped as a future full international.

It was on his Rita's pony Honey that Gillies first learned to ride. The story is told in the family of how at the age of 10, his mother Lesley put him aboard Honey only for Gillies to fall off. Thankfully he forgot his pledge never to get on a horse again.

Gillies was educated at Knox Academy in Haddington, but from his early teens his love of horses and riding was apparent. With his great friend Alexander Voy, also now a jockey, he would go riding after school almost every day.

Gillies first rode a jumps horse for trainer Willie Amos at his yard near Hawick at the age of 15. The following year he left school and moved to the Kinross-shire yard of Scotland's leading National Hunt trainer, Lucinda Russell.

He and Voy graduated from the British Racing School, but it was as an apprentice jockey at Russell's yard that Gillies made an immediate impact, riding 11 winners from 55 runners in his first full season.

Gillies was an important part of the Arlary team along with Russell, her partner Peter Scudamore and stable jockey Peter Buchanan. Gillies learned much from Scudamore and Buchanan, but his will to win was all his own.

He had a knack of forming a good relationship with certain horses, notably Lie Forrit, who he rode to seven victories for Amos. Another notable pairing from his early career was with Culcabock, who won at Cheltenham in December 2008 and at Aintree in April 2009, the latter at the price of 66-1.

Last season had been his best to date, as he rode 38 winners, and he had already gained four winners this season. His last win came aboard Fog Patches for Russell at Hexham last weekend.

His family have been devastated by the tragic loss of a son and brother, while his many friends and colleagues have paid highly emotional tributes to a much-loved young man.

He is survived by his mother, sister and brother.

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