Scots jockey Campbell Gillie dies in pool accident during Greek holiday

TOP Scots jump jockey Campbell Gillies has died in a swimming pool accident the day before his 22nd birthday while on holiday in Greece.

• The jockey was on holiday with friends in Greece, but died in an accident shortly after arriving in Kavos

• Campbell Gillies had ridden four winners this season

• Gillies rode primarily for Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell

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The Cheltenham Festival winning rider from Haddington, East Lothian, had travelled to Kavos on the island of Corfu with friends on Monday and died in an accident shortly after he arrived.

George Kostantis, the official police spokesman for Greece’s Ionian islands, said the jockey died while swimming with friends in the pool of the rented apartments where he was staying. He said the accident took place at about 8am yesterday.

“According to a preliminary investigation, the Briton took a deep plunge to the bottom of the pool, but did not exit safely,” Mr Kostantis said. “Something happened and he drowned, according to the autopsy.”

He said that a further post-mortem examination would be conducted.

He added: “No final conclusions can be reached yet as to the exact causes of death”.

The sportsman, whose brother Finlay is a professional rugby player with Glasgow Warriors, was one of racing’s emerging talents.

He had ridden four winners so far this season and in March secured the biggest win of his career, riding Brindisi Breeze in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Brindisi Breeze died this summer after getting on to the road and being hit by a lorry.

Speaking on behalf of Gillies’ mother Lesley, his sister Rita, and his brother Finlay, his uncle Rory McNeill said: “The whole family is devastated and trying to come to terms with our loss.

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“Campbell was dearly loved by one and all, and this is shown by the tributes. We hope that at this time we can be given the space and time to grieve.”

The young jockey rode primarily for the Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell, who said: “We are immensely proud of the achievements of Campbell.

“It was through his innate ability and talent that he reached great heights as a jockey at such an early age.

“More than that he had a wonderful charm that I believe came across to everyone who met him, and through his media interviews.’

Paul Struthers, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys Association, also paid tribute.

“We are shocked by the incredibly sad news of the death of Campbell Gillies and the thoughts of all jockeys and everyone at the PJA are today immediately with Campbell’s family and friends,” he said. “His riding career was beginning to flourish and he had a great future ahead of him in horse racing.”

First Minister Alex Salmond, who is a racing enthusiast, said: “The loss of his outstanding talent is a huge blow, not just to racing but to Scottish sport, and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”