A PORT girl who is chasing her dream of becoming a champion jockey has secured a coveted place at an elite academy.

Zoe Campbell from Mid Avenue battled her way through the toughest of fitness tests to make it over the first hurdle.

The 16-year-old has made it into the British School of Racing at Newmarket, where she will follow in the footsteps of famous former jockeys.

The former Port High pupil said: “The hard work is just about to start but I am up for it and will do whatever it takes.

“My dream would be to get to the Grand National.

“I have always loved horses and my grandad loved the racing, so I guess that is where it has all come from.

“People have always said to me that I could have what it takes to be a jockey.”

Last November Zoe made her way to Newmarket for trials and completed her fitness tests.

She drafted in the help of local former boxer Natalie McKay, who is now a personal trainer.

They worked on a gruelling regime in the gym to put Zoe in peak condition.

Natalie said: “I was celebrating when Zoe made it.

“We had to work really hard.”

Fearless Zoe fell in love with horses when she was only eight and has worked with them ever since.

She said: “I have always felt I had a connection with horses and this is what I want to do.

“I want to give it my best and see how far I go.”

Zoe spent years looking after other people’s ponies at various riding schools but over the last two years she has owned her own horse, Willow, and keeps her at High Matherknock Farm in Kilmacolm.

Zoe said: “It will be sad to leave her and I will miss her but I am looking forward to the challenge.”

Zoe will spend nine weeks at the school and if she makes the grade she will then join a top stable to work with racehorses for 18 months.

Her proud parents Rina, a children’s residential worker, and dad Edward, who works in the Fitzgerald Centre, are behind her all the way along with her older sisters Claire and Michaela and her brother Jamie.

Rina said: “She researched it all herself, came to me and said ‘right mum — this is what I am going to do’ and that was it. I think it will be the making of her.

“She is quiet and she will be away from home but she is so determined. Her dad was shocked at first but we are all so proud of her.”