Cheveley Park Stud have removed all eight horses they have in training with Gordon Elliott, while the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has announced it will convene on Friday to hear the case related to the image of the Grand National-winning trainer sitting on a dead horse.
One of the most successful breeding and ownership operations in the sport, Cheveley Park are more renowned for their success on the Flat, but have ramped up their interest in National Hunt racing in recent years and already enjoyed multiple winners at the Cheltenham Festival.
The most notable is the brilliant Envoi Allen, arguably the most exciting horse in Elliott’s yard following back-to-back Festival wins in the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in his unbeaten career to date.
However, with Elliott currently not be permitted to have runners in Britain until the conclusion of the IHRB investigation, Envoi Allen and several of his stable companions will be moved to Henry de Bromhead and Willie Mullins combined.
Cheveley Park director Richard Thompson told Sky Sports Racing: “We’ve made a decision this morning to move the horses from Gordon’s yard.
“We have eight horses (with Elliott) and they’ll go to Henry de Bromhead and Willie Mullins. That will be organised by Chris Richardson (Cheveley Park’s managing director) and the team. Logistics are in place and we’re organising it right now.”
Confirming plans for the team’s four Cheltenham Festival contenders, Thompson said Marsh Novices’ Chase favourite Envoi Allen will join De Bromhead, along with Supreme Novices’ Hurdle contender Ballyadam and possible Triumph Hurdle hope Quilixios.
Sir Gerhard, who is set to put his unbeaten record on the line in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, will be trained by Mullins, who already houses the favourite for the race in Kilcruit.
Thompson is hoping any affect to the horses’ training routines, with the Festival only a fortnight away, will be minimal.
He added: “Hopefully, with trainers like Henry and Willie and the Cheveley team headed by Chris, we’ve got real professionals on the job to hopefully be able to resolve this very quickly.
“It should be very smooth. That’s what we’re hoping for. It’s just very unfortunate timing, obviously.”
Thompson feels Cheveley Park ultimately had little option but to move the horses to other yards to ensure their reputation remained intact.
He said: “We had to consider what was happening (on Monday) with the building story and the backdrop of Cheveley’s reputation – in terms of maybe the most important British-owned racing and breeding operation in the UK.
“This reputation has been built up with various breeders and many people support us. We had to look at the situation in context of where Cheveley sit in the industry and our responsibility to the industry in Britain.
“It’s obviously very disappointing and extremely upsetting for the industry.
“People love horses and we, as a family, purchased Cheveley Park in 1975, so we’ve been racing and breeding for coming up to 46 years.
“I don’t know what the implications are longer term – I’m not close enough to the centre of the politics of racing and how it works between Britain and Ireland.
“All I know is, with my Cheveley Park Stud hat on, we had to take a decision as a board of directors to disassociate ourselves with Gordon at this time and do the right thing by the stud and by the industry.”
When asked if there was a possibility of Cheveley Park having horses with Elliott again in the long-term, Thompson added: “For the time being we’re moving the horses and that’s it.
“Obviously for Gordon, it’s a terrible time for him, but he’s made a terrible error of judgement, which he admits.
“I explained to him that we had to do the right thing by Cheveley Park and the right thing by our standing in the industry and what people expect of us.
“I’m not going to make a comment about long-term, but certainly in the short to medium term these horses will stay with Henry and Willie.”
While plans remain uncertain in such a fast-moving situation, Thompson expects Jack Kennedy to keep the ride on Envoi Allen at Cheltenham.
He said: “Envoi Allen has had Davy Russell and recently Jack Kennedy, and I personally would like to stick to continuity on retaining Davy and/or Jack, depending on injuries etc.
“With Envoi in particular, we want to stick to the previous relationships.”
Elliott has been “cooperating fully” with the IHRB since a photograph of him sitting on a dead horse on his gallops was posted on Twitter on Saturday night.
On Tuesday afternoon, the IHRB published a new statement on its Twitter account, which read: “The Referrals Committee of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board is scheduled to convene on Friday 5th March to hear evidence and consider an investigation relating to Mr. Gordon Elliott (Trainer).”
Michael Grassick, chief executive of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association, issued a statement saying Elliott had “let down” both himself and racing, while noting a “very difficult time” for the handler.
The statement said: “The IRTA utterly condemns the image that emerged over the weekend. As one of our most prominent and successful members, Gordon has a duty of care to his horses and this great sport but he has let down both himself and horse racing.
“However, we acknowledge his apology and recognise what is a very difficult time for him both professionally and personally.”