MARCUS TOWNEND: Gordon Elliott insulted our intelligence with his poor explanation of why he posed on a dead horse… he has damaged the sport and failing to take it on the chin means his reputation will NEVER recover among many racing fans
- A photo of Gordon Elliott on a dead horse emerged on social media on Saturday
- The Grand National-winning trainer is now under investigation by the BHA
- Elliott insulted racing fans with a poorly-judged statement about the picture
- He is fortunate that no crowds will be in attendance at the Cheltenham Festival
- Elliott has damaged the sport and his reputation is now unlikely to ever recover
One of the oldest adages in the book is when you are in a hole, stop digging.
When trainer Gordon Elliott released his statement late on Sunday evening giving his explanation behind the image of him sitting on the body of a dead horse, he was in the driving seat of a JCB.
Confirmation the image was real – rather than the digitally enhanced fake many were praying – was appalling enough. But to suggest it was a thoughtless and inadvertent mistake to use the carcass of the dead animal as an armchair – when taking a call on his mobile phone – compounded an already awful situation.
Gordon Elliott dug himself a deeper hole after this image of him sat on a dead horse emerged
The trainer attempted to explain the vile image but his statement failed to hit the right note
An insult to our intelligence, was how many reacted, not surprisingly, and that is very important.
The penalty the three-time Grand National-winning trainer is ultimately handed will not be decided in the court of public opinion but that wider verdict on him and his standards is still important.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board can hand down a fine or a ban, while the BHA indicated it was also considering its regulatory options.
But in failing to stand up and take it on the chin in his statement, Elliott has virtually ensured the rehabilitation of his reputation in the minds of many racing fans is a non-starter.
Elliott, pictured last month, faces a fight to restore his reputation after the picture was shared
Thank goodness there will be no crowds at next month’s Cheltenham Festival or the Grand National meeting at Aintree in April.
If Elliott is still allowed to have runners at those meetings, there would be a fair chance they would be booed, even the great dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll.
The anger among those working in the sport and the racing authorities is intense because Elliott’s action undermines the welfare initiatives they have worked so hard to convey.
Luckily for Elliott, he will not face the wrath of the Cheltenham crowd later this month
Elliott poses with two-time Grand National winner Tiger Roll and owner Michael O’Leary
The horse comes first is a message the BHA has put front and centre. That’s a hard sell if one of the sport’s highest-profile trainers can seemingly treat one of his horses with such disrespect.
There are many cultural differences between Britain and Ireland and a subtle difference in our attitude to racehorses with a more sentimental view of them on this side of the Irish Sea.
But there was no difference in the reaction to the Elliott pictures. When something is wrong it is wrong no matter where you are or who you are.
Elliott has been damaged by these images and so has the sport.