Trainer Scudamore hails Gillies as potential world beater after the rider's death in Greece
18:47 GMT, 26 June 2012
Peter Scudamore believes Campbell Gillies had an innate riding ability that could have carried him to the top of the jockey ranks.
The Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey, who would have been 22 on Wednesday, has died after a tragic swimming pool accident while on holiday in Greece.
The pinnacle of the Gillies embryonic career had come in March when he landed the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Brindisi Breeze, who is trained in Scotland by Scudamore’s partner Lucinda Russell.
Horror: Gillies lost his life while on holiday with fellow jockeys in Greece
Eight-time champion jockey Scudamore, who along with Russell's No 1 rider Peter Buchanan, had been a mentor to Gillies.
He said: ‘Campbell had a wonderful
personality – he was a very intelligent young lad who was both funny and
charming. Although he was a tough little lad he was also very
sensitive. Everybody in the yard adored him and is devastated.
‘We were all immensely proud of his
achievements, the pinnacle of which was the success of Brindisi Breeze.
Their partnership emphasised everything about Campbell. He rode with
such confidence and determination.
‘At 21, he obviously still had things to learn but he had an ability and sense of timing that you can’t teach.
‘You didn’t give him orders, he had
an innate sense to be in the right position on a horse. Who knows how
far he would have gone but I truly believe, given the opportunities, he
had the ability to be an outstanding jockey.
‘Everything he did in life was
positive and he took that attitude with him on the racecourse. He was so
looking forward to his holiday and the joke was they’d only paid 100
for it. That was his sense of humour.
‘He created a dilemma for us. I
wanted to encourage him to go south and get more rides but I didn’t want
him snapped up for a big job because when Peter retires, we wanted him
Tragedy: Gillies savoured victory at Cheltenham this year
A minute’s silence was observed at all four meetings on Tuesday in tribute to the Scottish rider.
Russell said: ‘We are immensely proud
of the achievements of Campbell. More than that he had a wonderful
charm that I believe came across to everyone who met him, and through
his media interviews.’
Champion jockey AP McCoy led the
tributes from weighing room colleagues, when he tweeted: ‘Very sad news
about Campbell Gillies a very good jockey but an even better bloke. All
our thoughts are with his family RIP.’
While Gold Cup winner Sam Thomas
said: ‘Saddening news about Campbell Gillies, a great pilot, a top guy
and most of all a true gentleman.’
Gillies, whose brother Finlay plays
rugby for Glasgow Warriors, first sprang to prominence due to his
association with the classy Lie Forrit, part-owned by his grandfather
and trained by Willie Amos.
Paying tribute: Peter Scudamore
He rode his first winner in the
2007-08 season and had 131 career winners including 38 last season. He
was in action as recently as Sunday at Hexham.
His uncle Rory McNeil issued a
statement on behalf of his mother Lesley, Finlay and sister Rita which
said ‘The whole family is devastated and trying to come to terms with
‘Campbell was dearly loved by one and
all, and this is shown by the tributes to him. We hope that at this
time we can be given the space and time to grieve.’
Brindisi Breeze was also killed in May after jumping out of his paddock and colliding with a lorry.
What seemed a devastating blow at time for the Russell stable has now been compounded in an unimaginable train of events.
Campbell, always courteous and
engaging, was on top of the world back at the Festival in March as he
talked so excitely about what he and his mount could achieve together.
In Brindisi Breeze, he had a partner potentially capable of projecting
his talents in the biggest races.
The season ahead was rich in promise
as he jostled with other promising young riders in the race to
ultimately succeed the likes of McCoy and Ruby Walsh.
To those professionally involved with
Campbell, the thought his life should be snuffed out so soon after that
March afternoon seems immensely cruel.
The extent of the agony being endured by those even closer to him is hard to imagine.