Gordon Elliott was banned on Monday from having runners in Britain while Irish authorities investigate the shocking picture of the trainer sitting on a dead horse while talking on his mobile phone.
The dramatic move by the British Horseracing Authority throws a huge question mark over Elliott’s entries at the Cheltenham Festival, which starts two weeks today.
They include his dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll and unbeaten Envoi Allen, hot favourite for the Marsh Novices’ Chase.
Gordon Elliott has apologised after a photo appeared to show him sitting on a dead horse
Elliott is being investigated by the Irish authorities after the image was posted on social media
The BHA described their decision as ‘proportionate in these circumstances’.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board have so far given no indication when a disciplinary hearing might be held as they continue their probe into the damaging image that was circulated widely on social media last weekend.
The BHA said in a statement last night: ‘The action taken by the BHA recognises that Mr Elliott is licensed in Ireland, whose regulatory body is carrying out its own investigation. However, Mr Elliott has entered horses to race in Britain, from which point the British Rules of Racing apply to him.
The 42-year-old has trained 147 winners this season but is now unable to enter British races
‘The decision to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to run in Britain is therefore an interim decision which the BHA regards as proportionate in these circumstances.’
BHA STATEMENT ON BRITISH RACE BAN
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) will not allow the Irish trainer Gordon Elliott to race horses in Britain whilst the Irish authorities investigate an image that appeared on social media over the weekend.
The trainer admitted the photo was genuine and apologised for his actions.
The BHA, which regulates racing in Britain, will use powers under its own rules to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to race in Britain pending consideration of the outcome of the Irish investigation.
The action taken by the BHA recognises that Mr Elliott is licensed in Ireland, whose regulatory body, the IHRB, is carrying out its own investigation.
However, Mr Elliott has entered horses to race in Britain, from which point the British Rules of Racing apply to him.
The decision to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to run in Britain is therefore an interim decision which the BHA regards as proportionate in these circumstances.
In an earlier statement, the BHA said it was appalled by the image which undermined its values of respecting and caring for horses.
The move heaps pressure on the IHRB to swiftly investigate the circumstances surrounding the picture and take action. Earlier on Monday, the BHA had said they were ‘appalled by the image’, adding: ‘We expect all those in our sport to demonstrate respect for horses wherever they have them in their care.
‘People who work in our industry believe their values of caring for and respecting our horses have been deeply undermined by this behaviour.
‘On their behalf, and on behalf of all horse-lovers, we say loudly that British horseracing finds this totally unacceptable.’
Elliott had seven winners at last year’s Cheltenham Festival to take his career tally to 32.
The trainer’s initial explanation that he had inadvertently sat down on the dead horse to take the phone call merely fanned the flames of the furore, despite his apology.
Last night he showed more contrition in a damage-limitation interview, telling the Racing Post the incident 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’.
He added: ‘I will be punished, I fully understand that. But 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. My whole life has revolved around horses since I was a child. Horses are all I have. I came from nothing and built a dream.
‘When your world starts crumbling in front of you, it’s a scary place to be. I just hope people can understand how truly sorry I am and find some way to forgive me.’
Betting firm Betfair were the first to act on Monday, dispensing with Elliott’s services as an ambassador.
The National Trainers Federation were also strong in their condemnation, saying their members were outraged and disgusted by Elliott’s actions.
Envoi Allen’s owners, the British-based Cheveley Park Stud, had indicated they would wait until the outcome of the IHRB investigation was complete before saying whether they will continue to have horses in his stable.
Elliott said horse welfare is ‘paramount’ to him and denied claims that the photo was ‘callous’
Timing could not be worse given the proximity of Cheltenham Festival, starting on March 16
The BHA’s move might force them to act quicker and potentially move their horses to another stable if they want them to take part at Cheltenham.
Elliott did receive backing from the Gigginstown Stud of Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, who is estimated to own 40 per cent of the horses at the Cullentra Stables, despite the trainer confirming last night that the horse in the photo was the Gigginstown-owned Morgan, who died in 2019.
A statement issued on behalf of O’Leary and his racing manager brother Eddie described the image as unacceptable, but they added: ‘We accept that this was a grievous but momentary lapse of judgment by Gordon, and not in keeping with our 15-year experience of his concern for and attention to the welfare of our horses.
Elliott’s stock has soared thanks to Tiger Roll’s successive victories in the Grand National
‘We all make mistakes, and what is important is that we learn from them and ensure we do not repeat them.
‘We accept Gordon’s sincere, profound and unreserved apology and we will continue to support him and his team as they work to recover from this deeply regrettable incident.’
It was Elliott’s 43rd birthday on Monday and on the racecourse it was business as usual as he had four winners at the meeting at Punchestown.
There will have been no celebration.