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Friday, 22 May 2015

Racecourse has warm welcome for stable hands

WITH a poky, unheated hut in place to house stable lads, most buildings would be an improvement on the previous accommodation provided at Hexham Racecourse.

But Yarridge Heights is now truly the envy of most racecourses across the country with the recent creation of a state-of-the-art, purpose built venue.

The £50,000 Campbell Gillies Lodge was opened back in October, and has proved a huge hit with stable hands at the four meetings since its creation.

The new accommodation can cater for eight stable staff in four bedrooms, and there is a communal kitchen and top of the range toilet and shower facilities.

Marketing manager Dennis Gallagher said: “It makes a huge difference to Hexham having our own luxury accommodation for the stable lads, and they rate it as one of the best in the country.

“The big courses will have decent accommodation but nothing like what we have, and, with it being purpose built, it is absolutely perfect for them.”

With the previous building a cold and unwelcoming place, Hexham Racecourse was desperate to improve its on-site facilities. However, the work was not at the top of the course’s to do list.

That all changed though when it applied for funding from betting company betfair, supported by the National Association of Stable Staff.

After independent racecourses were invited to bid for funds to improve their stable facilities, Hexham’s application caught the eye and it received £25,000, which it matched.

Racecourse marketing executive Lauren Dobson said: “We made an application to rebuild our accommodation and we won this bid probably on the back of what we had in place before.

“The previous building is just a stone shed and nothing works in it – the shower is just a drip – and I think that is what swayed the funders.”

While the new building will stand proudly at the racecourse, it will also represent a permanent reminder of a young jockey who had shown huge promise in the Sport of Kings.

Scot Campbell Gillies was a regular jockey at Yarridge, riding his first winner at the age of 16 and his last winner there too.

His final success on Brindisi Breeze came just two days before his death in a swimming accident while holidaying in Corfu. He would have turned 22-years-old the following day.

Lauren said: “His death is something that is so hard to believe, especially as he was just racing with us two days earlier.

“Campbell was always bubbly, joking and light hearted, and he was very well liked at Hexham.

“He was once asked what his best achievement was and, even though he had the biggest race of his life with a win at Cheltenham, he said that was being voted best looking jockey at Hexham!”

She added: “He was very good at his job and a lot of people were saying he had a tremendous future ahead of him because he was only 21.

“The lodge in his honour will be a nice, permanent reminder of his time at Hexham.”