IRISH racehorse trainer Gordon Elliott is under investigation by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) after a picture of him sitting on a dead horse was circulated on social media. He has been banned by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) until it is completed.
“It is an interim decision which the BHA regards as proportionate in these circumstances,” it said.
Elliott, who has won the Grand National three times, as well as numerous other high class victories, said in a statement that he received a phone call and sat down on the horse “without thinking”. He has apologised “profoundly” for the photograph and told the Racing Post it was “indefensible” and that he will accept whatever measures the racing authorities put in place.
“It was a moment of madness that I am going to have to spend the rest of my life paying for and that my staff are suffering for,” Elliott said.
“It absolutely breaks my heart to read and hear people say that I have no respect for my horses. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
With the Cheltenham Festival due to start on March 16, the BHA interim ban may mean that Elliott is unable to participate and the Grand National meeting at Aintree, scheduled for April 8-10 may also be in doubt. However, owners of horses in training with Elliott are allowed to transfer them to another trainer, in order to run them at a British race meeting “providing they comply with the relevant rules”.
The photograph raises questions in relation to horse welfare, with the BHA saying it was “appalled” by the picture and that Elliott’s behaviour “deeply undermined” the welfare values of the racing industry.
“I can categorically state that the welfare of each and every horse under my care is paramount and has been central to the success that we have enjoyed,” Elliott said.
“The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops.
“At what was a sad time, which it is when any horse under my care passes away, my initial reaction was to get the body removed from where it was positioned.
“I was standing over the horse waiting to help with the removal of the body, in the course of which, to my memory I received a call and, without thinking, I sat down to take it. Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished.
“Such background information may seem trivial at this time and will not allay the concerns of many people both within and outside the world of horse racing.”
Many of the owners of horses in training with Elliott are choosing to support him at this stage, with some waiting for the outcome of the investigation before commenting further.
A spokesman from IHRB stated: “The investigation is ongoing and will be dealt with as quickly as possible.”
Horse Racing Ireland has also condemned the picture and supported the IHRB investigation, adding: “From a disciplinary perspective, the matter is in process, so any further comment on the matter or the detail of the case at this time would not be appropriate.”
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