Gordon Elliott has been banned from training for 12 months as punishment for the shocking picture of him sat on a dead horse.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) held a disciplinary hearing into the matter on Friday following the emergence of the grotesque image on social media last weekend.
Elliott, who has won the Grand National three times as a trainer, had been ‘cooperating fully’ with the investigation, and the 43-year-old is not expected to drag out the case any longer by lodging an appeal.
Trainer Gordon Elliott has been punished after photo emerged of him sat on a dead horse
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) held a disciplinary hearing into Elliott’s actions
A statement by the IHRB read: ‘We consider that a suspension of Mr Elliott’s training licence is merited.
‘In all of the circumstances of this case, to reflect the seriousness of the offence and the damage to the Irish racing industry, to deter other offences of this nature and having taken into account the mitigating factors we have heard we consider the period should be 12 months however the last six months of this will be suspended.’
As well as his ban, Elliott has also been slapped with a €15,000 (£13,000) fine.
The decision leaves a conundrum for the owners that currently have horses in Elliott’s care.
His biggest backers, Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud, stood by Elliott following his apology this week but they now have a decision to make on who trains their star-studded crop.
Dual National winner Tiger Roll is one of their leading thoroughbreds and, although the 11-year-old was withdrawn from the world famous steeplechase earlier this week, is entered to run at the Cheltenham Festival.
Sportsmail reported this week that Elliott’s horses could run at the prestigious Festival under a caretaker.
Someone new at the helm would allow owners who keep their horses at Elliott’s County Meath base to have their entries run at Cheltenham, which starts a week on Tuesday.
It could also mean some form of the business will still exist for Elliott to return to after he has served his punishment. Around 80 staff work for him and there is rising sympathy and concern for their situation as innocent victims of the furore.
Elliott’s main backer, Michael O’Leary’s (right) Gigginstown Stud, stood by Elliott after apology
Leading owners Cheveley Park Stud moved their eight horses, including dual Cheltenham Festival winner Envoi Allen, from Elliott’s stable on Tuesday as the outrage over the picture of Elliott sitting astride a dead horse continued. The horse in the picture was Morgan, who died in 2019.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) had already enforced a ban on Elliott from entering any horses into British races while the Irish authorities investigated his actions.
However the BHA confirmed that owners could run their horses in this country if they were moved to other stables.
Other owners with horses in the stable were understood to be waiting until the conclusion of the IHRB investigation to decide what steps they’ll take.
Elliott received support this week from owner Philip Reynolds, who has eight horses at the stable, including talented chaser Presenting Percy.
Owners Cheveley Park Stud moved all eight horses, including the unbeaten Envoi Allen (above), in Gordon Elliott’s care to other trainers
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 outrage, despite his apology.
Speaking on Sunday, Elliott said the photo dated back to ‘some time ago’ and denied suggestions his actions had been ‘callous’, stressing that he was caught off-guard after receiving a phone call.
‘I would like to address the speculation and rumours that have been rife since an old photo of me began circulating on social media yesterday afternoon,’ he wrote in a statement.
‘Firstly, I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused and 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 here at Cullentra.
‘The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops. I appreciate that an initial viewing of this photo suggests it is a callous and staged photo but nothing could be further from the truth.
The picture shook the racing world with the Cheltenham Festival less than two weeks away
GORDON ELLIOTT FACTFILE
Trains: County Meath
Best Irish season: 210 winners (2017-18)
Cheltenham Festival Winners: 32
Grand Nationals: 3x wins (Silver Birch – 2007, Tiger Roll – 2018, 2019)
Cheltenham Gold Cup: Don Cossack (2016)
Irish Gold Cup: Delta Work (2020)
Irish Champion Hurdle: Apple’s Jade (2019)
‘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.’
Elliott hit out at ‘falsehoods and misinformation’ around the picture on social media but said he put horse welfare first and would continue to co-operate with the investigation.
‘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,’ he added.
‘However, I feel it is important to provide people with some context surrounding this photo. To the racing community, to anyone who has worked with and loves horses and to anyone offended by this image I cannot apologise enough.
‘Horse welfare and the care and attention to detail involved is absolutely at the core of everything we do here and both myself and all of my team pride ourselves on those standards.
‘Again I apologise for any offence caused and ask people to consider this statement as opposed to the various falsehoods and misinformation being circulated on social media.’
Betting firm Betfair were the first to act on Monday, removing Elliott as an ambassador and Elliott’s yard sponsor eCOMM Merchant Solutions moved to terminate their contract.
After the Elliott picture emerged, amateur jockey Rob James was forced to apologise for his ‘wholly inappropriate and disrespectful’ actions after a video of him sitting on a dead horse surfaced on social media.