Disgraced trainer Gordon Elliott will have his licence returned next week following six-month ban after shocking photo of him on a dead horse caused worldwide outrage
- Gordon Elliot’s first possible runners will not be until a week on Tuesday
- Elliot was suspended by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board for six months
- Pictures emerged of the 43-year-old jumps trainer sitting on a dead horse
- During his suspension Elliot missed out on around 50 winners in his name
It is a massive week ahead with the Cazoo St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday alongside a glittering Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown but arguably the most significant event in racing will happen off the track.
On Thursday, top Irish jumps trainer Gordon Elliott will have his licence to train returned and he can start making entries again.
His first possible runners will not be until a week on Tuesday when the three-time Grand National winning trainer will be able to gauge how his return to the front line is received by the racing and wider public.
Disgraced trainer Gordon Elliott was suspended by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board for six months after a picture merged of him sitting on a dead horse
He will have his licence returned on Thursday and he can start making entries again
In March, Elliott, 43, was suspended by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board for six months after a picture which had been taken in 2019 emerged of him sitting on a dead horse on the gallops of his County Meath stable.
Elliott apologised ‘profoundly’ after the images circulated in February. He 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.
In a strongly worded statement the IHRB said the picture had ‘been a cause of enormous distress to all those who appreciate the enjoyment that horses bring to their lives.’
If the decision had been left to the court of public opinion Elliott would probably have been handed a stiffer sentence and many were dismayed that he was allowed to remain at his stable while Denise Foster was brought in as a caretaker trainer amid accusations she was simply a flag of convenience while he continued to pull the strings behind the scenes.
While it has never been suggested there was an equine welfare issue at the Elliott yard — something accepted by the IHRB — it was the crassness of his act which caused such anger.
Elliot lost Envoi Allen to rival trainers Henry De Bromhead (pictured) and Willie Mullin
Professionally Elliott has paid a heavy price for his act of madness. He missed out on around 50 winners in his name but more significantly lost a clutch of his best horses as the British-based Cheveley Park Stud moved the likes of Quilixios and Sir Gerhard, who both subsequently won at the Cheltenham Festival, plus previous two-time Cheltenham Festival winner Envoi Allen to rival Irish trainers Henry De Bromhead and Willie Mullins.
Galvin, owned by British based Ronnie Bartlett, also left Elliott’s stables before winning the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham while commercial blows were the loss of his lucrative ambassadorial role with Betfair as well as his stable sponsor.
Elliott declined to comment on his return when contacted by the Mail On Sunday but he has given an interview to the Racing Post which will be published tomorrow.
In previews to that, he describes the loss of those horses as ‘the lowest point of it all’ while adding of Envoi Allen’s departure from his stable that ‘there still isn’t a night I don’t lie in bed thinking about him’.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary stood by Elliot during his suspension from horse racing
Crucially, Elliott’s principal backer, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary via his Gigginstown Stud operation, has stood by him. What remains to be seen is how Elliott can rebuild his reputation. It is fair to say critics on this side of the Irish Sea have generally taken a harder line than those in his homeland.
It might be Cheltenham’s November meeting before Elliott is possibly seen again on a British track. Could he be booed or is that too alien a reaction for the largely genteel Cotswold crowd?
Elliott may be back but reconstructing broken bridges with some of the racing public will take a long time.