Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey Campbell Gillies has died following an accident on holiday in Greece.
Gillies, who was due to turn 22 on Wednesday, was attached to the Lucinda Russell yard in Kinross, Scotland.
He rode the biggest winner of his fledgling career when Brindisi Breeze ran out an impressive victor of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Russell posted on her website, www.lucindarussell.com: “We learnt this morning that Campbell died as the result of a swimming accident while in Kavos, Greece.
“Campbell was on a short holiday with one of our head lads, Mark Ellwood, and jockeys Nathan Moscrop, Henry Brooke and Harry Haynes.
“This dreadful news has hit the whole yard. He was a much loved, popular and respected member at Arlary, and it is so hard to lose part of our ’family’.
“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.
“His victory at Cheltenham on Brindisi Breeze was the pinnacle of his career; the race epitomised him as a jockey; his belief and confidence and his innate timing. He became one with the horse.
“This empathy and love of his horses was one of the reasons that he was a truly great jockey.”
Rory McNeill, Campbell’s uncle, made the following statement on behalf of Lesley (his mother), and his brother and sister Finlay and Rita: “The whole family is devastated and trying to come to terms with our loss.
“Campbell was dearly loved by one and all, and this is shown by the tributes to Campbell. We hope that at this time we can be given the space and time to grieve.”
Gillies’ brother, Finlay, plays rugby for Glasgow Warriors and the club said in a statement: “Glasgow Warriors are deeply saddened to learn of the sad passing of Campbell Gillies, brother of Warriors hooker Finlay.
“A promising young jockey, Campbell shot to prominence when he rode Brindisi Breeze to victory in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle on Gold Cup day at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
“The thoughts of everyone at Glasgow Warriors are with Finlay and his family at this terrible time.”
Gillies sprang to prominence due to his association with the classy Lie Forrit, trained by Willie Amos.
He rode his first winner in the 2007-08 season and had 131 winners under his belt.
Last year was his best campaign to date with 38 winners and he was in action as recently as Sunday at Hexham.
Racing personalities were quick to pay their respects to Gillies on Twitter.
Gold Cup-winning jockey Paddy Brennan said: “The worst news you cud possibly hear. Campbell you will be sadly missed by us all. Great jockey & even better bloke £RIP.”
Champion jockey Tony McCoy said: “Very sad news about Campbell Gillies a very good jockey but an even better bloke. All our thoughts are with his family RIP.”
Grand National-winning jockey Barry Geraghty said: “Very sad news about Campbell Gillies, a very good rider & a lovely fella. He will be sadly missed. All our thoughts are with his family RIP.”
Trainer Gordon Elliot said: “In complete shock to hear the awful news about Campbell Gillies, my thoughts go to his family and friends.”
Cheltenham racecourse tweeted: “Desperate news that jockey C Gillies has died on holiday. Our thoughts are with his family & friends.”
While trainer Donald McCain said: “Shocking news about Campbell Gillies, thoughts are with all his family.”
Gold Cup winner Sam Thomas said: “Saddening news about Campbell Gillies, a great pilot, a top guy and most of all a true gentleman. My thoughts go out to all his family.”
A statement from the Injured Jockeys Fund said: “The Injured Jockeys Fund joins the whole racing community to extend its sincerest condolences to Campbell’s family at this tragic time.
“We will be doing all that we can to assist the family and remaining jockeys still in Corfu. Campbell was a hugely popular jockey and will be sorely missed by all of his friends and colleagues.”