08/09/2013 1:21PM

Fort Erie: Wilson’s horsemanship dates to his childhood


FORT ERIE, Ontario – Campbell Wilson, age 36, has been around horses since the age of 10, when he first learned to ride at the White Oaks Academy in Chippewa, Ontario.

Even before that time, Wilson remembers with some clarity his father taking him to the races at Fort Erie, and it was then and there that he marveled over and fell in love with Thoroughbred horses.

As a teenager, Wilson spent some time on a stud farm in Lexington, Ky.

“My time in the Bluegrass state was a life turning point,” said Wilson.

“I was at the bottom rung of the farm’s staffing. The hours were long and the workday very busy, but I felt like this was where I belonged rather than the inside of a university in a stuffy classroom.

“I joined the barn of trainer Justin Nixon for the next few years and tried to learn every aspect of the trainer’s role. Justin was a great teacher. Later, Layne Giliforte took me under his wing and continued my education.”

After Giliforte, Wilson went south and hooked up with trainer Tom Skiffington.

“That was a whole different ball game,” said Wilson as he spoke highly of the multiple graded stakes-winning trainer.

“Tom had his own approach to training, and the lessons he taught me were invaluable.”

Wilson took out his training license in 2001 and saddled his first winner here that October.

“I put jockey Paul Souter up on my runner, Boo Who, the first runner I had sent out as a trainer. My instructions to Paul were specific: Stay back in the early going, then go for it.”

Two minutes later, a somewhat shocked Wilson walked into the winner’s circle.

“My first start as a trainer and my first win,” he said.

Wilson over the years has achieved a 12-percent win mark with his runners and easily recalls his favorite.

”I was down at Hot Springs, Ark., in 2003,” said Wilson, “and bought a runner from Stanley Roberts, a bowed horse named Oh Mar.”

“ ’Don’t get fancy with this guy, he is all speed – just send him and he will win,’ ” said Roberts.

“Oh Mar went on to make $85,000 for us, with his four wins all gate-to-wire.”

Wilson then had an itch to travel and applied for an assistant trainer’s position in Saudi Arabia in 2008. A six-month contract followed, and he was assigned 20 horses by head trainer Bruce Anderson.

“The surprise of my life came shortly after settling in when Anderson suddenly quit and I was selected to replace him,” said Wilson.

Suddenly, I had over 90 horses to train and even with assistants, the task was formidable. My day began very early and very finished late, but I enjoyed the challenge.”

Although a free spirit, Wilson has a young daughter, Alli Virginia Wilson, and the thought of having her out of his life was enough to have him change course and return to Canada.

“She is the love of my life and to be on my own so many miles away was impossible for me to imagine,” he said.

Now, back at the Fort, he is settled and pleased with his decision to return.

A new hobby involves racing greyhounds and he has a few active runners, and some young ones who look to have great potential.

“I got caught up with greyhounds when in the Carolinas,” said the trainer. “A young greyhound is like a Thoroughbred weanling. They bring you hopes and dreams and time will tell.”