Anger rises when British horse racing reacts to trainer’s photo


The image of Grand National winner coach Gordon Elliott apparently posing for a photo while sitting on a dead horse has sparked horror and anger in British racing circles as authorities weigh what action to take against the Irishman.

LONDON – The image of Grand National winner coach Gordon Elliott apparently posing for a photo while sitting on a dead horse sparked horror and anger in British racing circles on Monday as authorities weighed what action to take against the Irishman.

One of his most prominent employers, Cheveley Park Stud, said he was “really appalled” by the image and the bookmaker Betfair dismissed Elliott as an ambassador, saying his actions were not consistent with his “values.”

They were sentiments echoed by the body that runs British horse racing in a scathing statement.

“People working in our industry believe that their values, of caring for and respecting our horses, have been deeply undermined by this behavior,” said the British Horse Racing Authority.

The BHA said it was appalled “by the image, adding:” On behalf of all horse lovers, we say out loud that British horse racing finds this totally unacceptable. “

In his complicated explanation of an incident that he said happened “some time ago”, Elliott said he was waiting for the body of the horse, which has not been named, to be removed when he received a phone call and sat on the horse “without thinking. “. The image shows him in a pose, holding two fingers while sitting astride the horse.

The Irish Horse Racing Regulatory Board is investigating the incident and the BHA said it is “considering its own regulatory options.”

The Jockey Club, a trade organization that owns many of Britain’s leading racetracks, including Cheltenham and Epsom, said Elliott’s actions “do not reflect the respect and care that racehorses receive from participants in our sport.” .

“The anger and discomfort in the races says it all,” he said.

Elliott has been a Grand National winning coach three times, first in 2007 with Silver Birch. He then coached Tiger Roll to become the first consecutive winner of the most grueling show jumping race in horse racing, in 2018 and ’19, since Red Rum in the 1970s.

He has coached 32 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, where he has been the best coach twice. He has finished runner-up in the coaches’ championship in each of the past eight seasons and is back in second place this season just weeks before his all-star team, led by the undefeated Envoi Allen, heads to Cheltenham.

Elliott did not come from a racing family like many leading coaches. He was a relatively successful amateur jockey and later worked for Martin Pipe before striking out on his own.

Tiger Roll could still make him the first trainer to win three consecutive Grand Nationals, and the horse’s owner, Michael O’Leary, is one of the few who supports Elliott.

“We accept that this photograph was a painful but momentary lapse of judgment for Gordon,” said O’Leary, who runs the Gigginstown House Stud operation and is also CEO of low-cost carrier Ryanair, “and disagrees with our 15 years of experience of your concern and care for the welfare of our horses.

“We all make mistakes and the important thing is that we learn from them and make sure we don’t repeat them. We accept Gordon’s sincere, deep and unreserved apology and will continue to support him and his team. ”

The Irish Horse Racing Regulatory Board has said its investigation will be addressed “as quickly as possible”.

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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