Racing authorities in Britain and Ireland have condemned the image of Grand National-winning trainer Gordon Elliott which circulated on social media over the weekend.
In a statement issued late on Sunday evening, Elliott confirmed the image, which showed him sitting on a dead horse, was genuine and apologised “profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused”, while seeking to explain what he said was the context of events that led to the picture.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has already launched a full investigation – and while Elliott is licensed in Ireland, the British Horseracing Authority is “considering its own regulatory options”, saying it is “appalled” by the image.
A statement read: “The BHA is appalled by the image that appeared this weekend. We expect all those in our sport to demonstrate respect for horses, on the racecourse, in the training yard, on the gallops, and wherever they have horses in their care.
“People who work in our industry believe their values – of caring for and respecting our horses – have been deeply undermined by this behaviour. On their behalf, and on behalf of all horse lovers, we say loudly that British horseracing finds this totally unacceptable.
“The BHA is considering its own regulatory options, recognising that the Irish authorities license Mr Elliott and are carrying out their own investigation.”
Horse Racing Ireland, the national authority for thoroughbred racing in Ireland, echoed those sentiments, saying the picture was a “disservice” to people in racing.
A statement said: “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 race horses 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 IHRB is hoping for a speedy resolution to the case, with a spokesman adding: “As is the case with all investigations carried out by the IHRB, there is a process that must be followed – and that will be the case in this instance.
“As stated over the weekend, this will be dealt with as quickly as possible.”
Despite the controversy, it was business as usual for Elliott on the racecourse at least, as he sent out Black Tears to win the Grade Three Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown – while Papal Lodge, Coach Carter and Mighty Potter were also on the mark for the Cullentra team.
Elliott also received a boost as Gigginstown House Stud owner Michael O’Leary confirmed his team – including dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll – would be going nowhere, opting to accept an apology for a “grievous but momentary lapse of judgement from Gordon”.
Cheveley Park Stud, who count hot Cheltenham Festival favourite Envoi Allen among their Elliott string, said they were “truly horrified and dismayed by the photograph”, but will wait for the IHRB investigation to conclude before making any decisions on the future.
Sire Du Berlais is prominent in the betting for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival. Frank Berry, racing manager for his owner JP McManus, declined to comment on the situation when contacted on Monday morning.
But online bookmakers Betfair – for whom Elliott has been an ambassador for several years – made a swift decision to cut ties with the trainer.
A statement read: “While we recognise that Gordon deeply regrets and apologised unreservedly for his poor judgement, his actions are completely at odds with the values of the Betfair brand and that of our employees.
“With that in mind, we have decided to discontinue our association with Gordon with immediate effect.”