Track’s tribute to tragic jockey

Campbell Gilles, who died in an accident while on holiday in Corfu

Campbell Gilles, who died in an accident while on holiday in Corfu

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A PERMANENT tribute to a promising young jockey from the Lothians who died earlier this year has been unveiled at the racecourse where he made his name.

Campbell Gillies, from Haddington, East Lothian, died in a swimming accident in a hotel pool in Corfu in June, a day before his 22nd birthday.

The jump jockey, who was reportedly scared of horses when he first started riding, began racing at the age of 14 while still a pupil at his hometown’s Knox Academy.

Hexham Racecourse, in Northumbria, where Gillies rode the first and last winners of his career, has now named a new stable staff accommodation facility The Campbell Gillies Lodge, in his honour.

His mother, Lesley Gillies, declared the lodge open at a ceremony.

A spokesperson from Hexham said: “Campbell was one of the most popular jockeys to ride regularly at Hexham and was highly respected by owners, trainers, fellow jockeys and race goers. He rode his first winner at Hexham when just 16 years old and also rode both his last winner and in his last race at Hexham just two days before he died.

“To mark the occasion, the racecourse executive, race-day sponsors betfair and the National Association of Stable Staff decided to name a new accommodation block for stable lads and lasses The Campbell Gillies Lodge.”

In March, Campbell rode Brindisi Breeze to victory in the grade one Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival, the biggest win he had achieved so far.

A spokesman for Musselburgh Racecourse said that while they had no current plans for a similar tribute, they were open to the idea.

He said: “Campbell was very much a jumps jockey and we’ve not entered that season yet. It’s something we may look into doing at that time.”

Following his death, tributes poured in for the youngster, who was viewed as one of racing’s emerging talents.

First Minister Alex Salmond said the news was “devastating”, adding: “Campbell Gillies achieved extraordinary success. The loss of his outstanding talent is a huge blow, not just to racing but to Scottish sport.”

An estimated 600 people attended Campbell’s funeral at Mortonhall Crematorium, including Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, Scotland football manager Craig Levein and horse-racing legend Tony McCoy. More than 300 mourners had to stand outside and listen as the tributes were relayed on a speaker system.

Speaking after the service, Mr McCoy said he had been a huge admirer of the young rider.

jen.lavery@edinburghnews.com