Gordon Elliott barred from having runners in Britain while image inquiry goes on
The British Horseracing Authority will prevent Gordon Elliott from saddling runners in Britain while the Irish authorities investigate the photograph of the leading trainer sitting on a dead horse which appeared on social media over the weekend.
The BHA has used powers under its own rules to halt Elliott's involvement in British racing pending consideration of the outcome of the investigation being carried out by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.
However, owners will be permitted to transfer horses to a different trainer and run them at British meetings. Elliott has 104 entries in the early-closing races at this month's Cheltenham Festival.
On Tuesday it was announced that Cheveley Park Stud would move all their horses – including unbeaten Marsh Novices' Chase favourite Envoi Allen – to the yards of Henry de Bromhead and Willie Mullins, while the Noel and Valerie Moran-owned Zanahiyr and Gigginstown House Stud-owned dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll are among other leading Elliott-trained hopes.
A BHA statement on Monday evening read: "The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) will not allow the Irish trainer Gordon Elliott to race horses in Britain whilst the Irish authorities investigate an image that appeared on social media over the weekend.
"The trainer admitted the photo was genuine and apologised for his actions.
"The BHA, which regulates racing in Britain, will use powers under its own rules to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to race in Britain pending consideration of the outcome of the Irish investigation.
"The action taken by the BHA recognises that Mr Elliott is licensed in Ireland, whose regulatory body, the IHRB, is carrying out its own investigation.
"However, Mr Elliott has entered horses to race in Britain, from which point the British Rules of Racing apply to him.
"The decision to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to run in Britain is therefore an interim decision which the BHA regards as proportionate in these circumstances.
"In an earlier statement, the BHA said it was appalled by the image which undermined its values of respecting and caring for horses."
'Outrage and disgust'
British trainers have sought to distance themselves from the photograph through a strongly worded statement from the National Trainers Federation released on Monday evening.
The NTF expressed its dismay at the image and said it had been contacted by outraged members over the previous 24 hours.
A statement read: "From yesterday evening through today, the National Trainers Federation has been contacted by its members expressing outrage and disgust at the image of Gordon Elliott circulating on social media.
"Although Mr Elliott is based in Ireland, the NTF, which represents trainers based in Great Britain, wishes the public to be in no doubt that its members distance themselves from the behaviour on display in that image, and want to emphasise their deeply felt values of care, respect and love for the racehorse.
"These values underpin the public's confidence in the sport, and are indispensable to the future prosperity of all who work in horseracing."
Elliott has been condemned throughout the sport in a series of statements, with Horse Racing Ireland saying the photo does a "disservice to the thousands of people who look after their horses on a daily basis".
Elliott is said to be "cooperating fully" with an investigation by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) into the image, and HRI said it supports the investigation and will not be making any further comment until it has completed. No date for a hearing into the matter has been confirmed by the IHRB.
The statement from HRI read: "Horse Racing Ireland unreservedly condemns the disturbing photograph that appeared on social media at the weekend.
"This image does not reflect the care, attention and respect that racehorses receive, and does a disservice to the thousands of people who look after their horses on a daily basis. Horse Racing Ireland notes and supports the IHRB investigation into the circumstances around the photograph.
"From a disciplinary perspective, the matter is in process, so any further comment on the matter or the detail of the case at this time would not be appropriate."
The independently chaired Horse Welfare Board was set up by the BHA with the task of piloting research and reform in the area of cradle-to-grave care for racehorses, as well as making a positive case to politicians and the public that racing was capable of self-governance in the realm of equine wellbeing.
While the image of Elliott does not imply any breach of welfare standards, the board issued a statement strongly condemning the photo and highlighting the potential it has to inflict damage on the sport's reputation for putting horses first.
More on the Gordon Elliott story:
The statement read: "Like so many people, inside and outside racing, the Horse Welfare Board members were shocked and appalled by the image that emerged this weekend.
"In our [February 2020] strategy [A Life Well Lived], we underline the importance of maintaining public and political trust in racing and, most importantly, we emphasise that respect for the horse, at all stages of its life and death, must underpin everything we do.
"Anything otherwise does a great disservice to the overwhelming majority of people in racing, who are motivated by a deep love and compassion for horses.
"It is vital that this matter is fully investigated as a matter of urgency and appropriate action taken by the racing authorities in both Ireland and Britain."
If you want more Gordon Elliott news:
Join Members' Club Ultimate and read tipping from the likes of Pricewise and Paul Kealy, all the big interviews and features, daily comment and news analysis – plus our Ultimate Daily newsletter. Click here to sign up.