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Races will honour dead Scots jockey

A STEEPLECHASE in memory of a young Scots jockey who died last summer is to be held for the next three years at one of Britain's leading race courses.

TRIBUTE: Campbell Gillies.
TRIBUTE: Campbell Gillies.

Hexham officials have already called a new accommodation block after Campbell Gillies who rode his first and last winners at the ground and the first Campbell Gillies Memorial Chase will be held on October 4.

The jump jockey, brother of Glasgow Warriors rugby hooker Finlay Gillies, had the biggest win of his career at the Cheltenham Festival three months before he died.

He drowned in a swimming pool last June within hours of arriving on holiday with jockey friends at the resort of Kavos on the Greek island Corfu, the day before his 22nd birthday. His death shocked the close-knit racing community across Britain.

First Minister Alex Salmond, a horse-racing fan, was among those who paid tribute to Gillies after the accident, describing his death as "a huge blow to Scottish sport".

Around 600 mourners, including Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill and former Scotland football manager Craig Levein, attended Gillies's funeral at Mortonhall Crematorium, Edinburgh last July.

The decision to hold the memorial race was taken after the board of directors at the Northumberland course contacted Gillies's mother Lesley, who agreed to the two-mile memorial race.

Lauren Dobson, spokeswoman for Hexham Racecourse, said: "We asked permission of Mrs Gillies and she was the one who accepted that the memorial race would be held for the next three years. It will be held this year, 2014 and 2015 and be called the Campbell Gillies Memorial Chase.

"It will be our first October meeting in each of those years.

"Campbell rode regularly at the course. He liked the course and was a very popular and bubbly character. He won the best-looking jockey competition one year which really pleased him.

"It was particularly special that he rode his first and last winners at Hexham."

Gillies was born in Haddington, East Lothian, and primarily rode for Perth-based trainer Lucinda Russell, after joining her team in 2007.

A race was held in his name last autumn at a memorial day for the jockey at Hexham. It was won by a horse Lucky Sunny trained by Russell, and by a close jockey friend of Gillies's, Peter Buchanan from his former stables.

Gillies's mother opened the new accommodation block for stable lads and lasses, which is called the Campbell Gillies Lodge, just before the race meeting.

The young jockey's former agent and friend Paul Brierley said the race was a fitting tribute.

"I'm delighted Hexham is holding the memorial race for three years.

"They've done a fantastic job in remembering Campbell with the Campbell Gillies Lodge, and the memorial chase will help keep Campbell in everybody's thoughts.

"I'm sure Lucinda will want to win it again."

He added that the race would probably be held on soft ground and would suit certain horses more than others.

Mr Brierley added that Gillies had been nominated for a special award at the annual Professional Jockey Association's Stobart Lesters in Birmingham next month.

Gillies rode Brindisi Breeze to victory in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, the highlight on the jump racing calendar, in March last year and had won 131 races during his career, including 38 last season.

Brindisi Breeze was killed in May when he jumped out of a paddock and was hit by a lorry on a nearby road.

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