Gordon Elliott admits 'shocking' photo is real and apologises
Gordon Elliott has apologised and provided what he said was some context for the controversial photo that emerged on social media on Saturday night that showed him sitting on a dead horse on the side of a gallop. In his statement he insisted that "horse welfare and care are at the core of everything" that is done at his Cullentra House Stables.
The Grand National and Gold Cup-winning trainer had already said on Twitter he would be "cooperating fully" with an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) investigation into the image, which prompted the BHA to urge the Irish authorities to act quickly to confirm how the "shocking picture" originated.
The IHRB's official investigation remains a work in progress, but, via a statement on Sunday night, Elliott has sought to provide some background to the sequence of events that led to the picture.
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The statement read: "I would like to address the speculation and rumours that have been rife since an old photo of me began circulating on social media yesterday afternoon.
"Firstly, I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused and can categorically state that the welfare of each and every horse under my care is paramount and has been central to the success that we have enjoyed here at Cullentra.
"The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops. I appreciate that an initial viewing of this photo suggests it is a callous and staged photo but nothing could be further from the truth.
"At what was a sad time, which it is when any horse under my care passes away, my initial reaction was to get the body removed from where it was positioned.
"I was standing over the horse waiting to help with the removal of the body, in the course of which, to my memory I received a call and, without thinking, I sat down to take it. Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished.
"Such background information may seem trivial at this time and will not allay the concerns of many people both within and outside the world of horse racing.
"However, I feel it is important to provide people with some context surrounding this photo. To the racing community, to anyone who has worked with and loves horses and to anyone offended by this image I cannot apologise enough.
"Horse welfare and the care and attention to detail involved is absolutely at the core of everything we do here and both myself and all of my team pride ourselves on those standards.
"Again I apologise for any offence caused and ask people to consider this statement as opposed to the various falsehoods and misinformation being circulated on social media.
"At this time I would like to stress that I continue to extend my full cooperation with the ongoing IHRB investigation."
The image, posted from an account unconnected to the trainer of dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll, was widely circulated on the social media platform, leading the IHRB to tweet that "an investigation was taking place".
Elliott initially responded on Twitter to say: "I'm aware of a photo in circulation on social media. The IHRB have been in contact with me regarding this photo and I will be cooperating fully with their investigation."
The IHRB chief executive Denis Egan subsequently confirmed to the Racing Post: "The photo is being investigated. Nothing else can be said at this stage until we have carried out the investigation, but it will be done quickly."
The British Horseracing Authority on Sunday confirmed that senior members of the organisation are in close contact with their counterparts at the IHRB, while urging the authorities in Ireland to act swiftly.
A BHA spokesman said: "We hope the Irish authorities will quickly confirm how this shocking picture originated.
"Respect for horses is a fundamental value of our sport, contrary to the impression in this picture. The IHRB have assured us that the investigation will be carried out as quickly as possible and that they will keep us informed as more information becomes available."
Based at Cullentra House, near Longwood in County Meath, Elliott, who turns 43 on Tuesday, became the youngest trainer to saddle the winner of the Grand National when successful with Silver Birch at the age of 29 in 2007.
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In 2016 he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Don Cossack and in 2018 and 2019 he was the leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival.
On Tuesday it was announced that unbeaten Marsh Novices' Chase favourite Envoi Allen, owned by Cheveley Park Stud, would join the yard of Henry de Bromhead.
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