Gordon Elliott: 'I'll spend life paying for indefensible moment of madness'
Gordon Elliott says he has let down the racing industry, his owners and his staff with an "indefensible moment of madness" as the sport united in condemning the image of the trainer sitting on a dead horse on his gallops.
Elliott spoke exclusively to the Racing Post on a day that saw the British Horseracing Authority ban him from having runners in Britain while an investigation by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board takes place into the image that appeared on social media at the weekend.
The BHA said it would allow the trainer's horses to run if transferred to another trainer and on Tuesday Cheveley Park Stud announced that unbeaten superstar Envoi Allen would join trainer Henry de Bromhead with Willie Mullins also receiving horses, including Sir Gerhard.
The IHRB, who had promised swift action when details of the case first emerged, revealed on Tuesday that the referrals committee will convene this Friday to hear evidence and consider an investigation relating to the matter.
Elliott's biggest owners, Gigginstown House Stud, have said they will stick by the trainer, who confirmed it was one of their horses, Morgan, in the image. The gelding won four of his 21 starts and died of a heart aneurysm as a seven-year-old in 2019.
The trainer discussed the incident on Monday and said that he will spend the rest of his life regretting and paying for the mistake he has made.
Elliott said: "It is indefensible. Whether alive or dead, the horse was entitled to dignity. 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.
"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. I know nothing else. 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 for what I have done."
Key developments on the Gordon Elliott story:
Elliott, who had released a statement confirming the image was real on Sunday evening, claimed that welfare is at the top of his priorities with his horses.
He said: "I treat each and every one of the horses I train with the utmost respect. We pride ourselves on having the highest of standards with the way we treat our horses, and our staff. I think our facilities here at Cullentra vouch for that. Horse and staff welfare is at the very top of my priorities. I've invested heavily in outdoor paddocks for horses with respiratory problems; we have vibrating massage plates; a swimming pool; padded stables; a cooling down area. We even bring horses to the beach on a regular basis for an away day. The welfare of my horses, both physically and mentally, is massive.
"I can guarantee that this will never happen again to any animal, alive or dead."
Elliott revealed that he had become aware of the image circulating while he was at Fairyhouse on Saturday.
"I received a phone call after the second-last race at Fairyhouse on Saturday telling me about the image that had appeared on social media," he said. "My initial reaction was that it couldn't possibly have been me but then the picture was sent to me and I realised it was. It was a few years ago.
"There were a lot of people telling me to say it was photoshopped, but the one thing I've always been told in life is that if you start telling lies you will end up telling lies for the rest of your life.
"I instantly realised the magnitude of the situation and thought about all I had worked so hard for. I bought my yard nine years ago and the day I bought it I didn't even have the deposit to pay for it. I have worked so hard to get to where I am today.
"My heart goes out to all my staff. I know how hard they work. I know that I have not only let them down but that I have let the whole racing industry down too. That is down to my stupidity and I am truly, truly sorry."
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