Posts

Simon McGonagle disqualified for nine months for taking Elliott picture

Simon McGonagle has been disqualified from racing for nine months at a referrals hearing of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board after being found responsible for taking the photograph that led to trainer Gordon Elliott’s suspension.

Seven months will be suspended for a period of one year, after which the disqualification lapses. The sanction takes effect from April 16.

The referral followed an IHRB investigation into an image circulating on social media which first came to their attention on February 27.

Your first 30 days for just £1

During the investigation, it was confirmed McGonagle, a head lad, took the photograph that incriminated Elliott.

Evidence was heard from McGonagle and Denise Foster, who is holding the licence at Cullentra House Stables while Elliott serves his suspension.

In his evidence, McGonagle outlined his experience and employment within racing over approximately 30 years, having been first employed by Elliott in 2007.

The committee heard McGonagle did not contest he took the photograph, that he captioned it and disseminated it to five friends. This ultimately led to the photograph becoming public from an unknown source. He accepted that “by virtue of his actions he was part of a chain of events that has caused damage to the integrity of racing and he fully understands the outrage expressed in relation to this image”.

The referrals committee found McGonagle had acted in a manner which was prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horse racing.

In their findings, they concluded: “We will not repeat what has been said before about the awful image at the heart of this case. The taking of the image was ill-judged and in bad taste and we consider that Mr McGonagle should have known better as a head lad involved in the industry for a considerable time.

“As head lad he should also show a good example to others in the yard. However, we reiterate the points made in the Elliott case that this incident is not concerned with cruelty or horse welfare. Also, having heard the evidence in this case we are no further on as to how this image came into the public domain and we can reach no conclusions on that issue.

“We reach the sanction having considered all of the circumstances, aggravating and mitigating factors, bearing in mind the seriousness of the offence and the need for deterrence, and considering Mr McGonagle’s personal circumstances, in order to reach a proportionate result.”

Tiger rolls back the years to win at Cheltenham again

Tiger Roll was an incredible winner at the Cheltenham Festival for the fifth time when reclaiming his Glenfarclas Chase crown in scintillating fashion.

Having hitherto disappointed this season, it seemed the form that had seen him win back-to-back Grand Nationals was in the past.

But back at his favourite track and sent off the 9-2 second-favourite behind his conqueror from last season, Easysland, he looked a lot younger than his 11 years skipping round the cross-country course.

The French challenger briefly closed up and looked threatening, but it soon became apparent that Keith Donoghue had only given Tiger Roll a breather.

He quickly went clear again and rounding the home turn the race was over, with his only danger in front of him – but he skipped the last and powered home by 18 lengths from Easysland, with Some Neck third.

Now in the care of Denise Foster following long-time trainer Gordon Elliott’s well-chronicled ban, Tiger Roll usually runs in this race prior to heading to Aintree for the National, but the decision was taken a few weeks ago to take him out of the race as connections believed his handicap mark was unfair.

Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for owners Gigginstown House Stud, said: “That was unbelievable – what a fantastic horse, we’re over the moon here. He’s a legend of a horse.

“There was a rush to retire this horse earlier in the season, but he’s a cross-country horse, that’s what he is, and we always said we’ll wait to see how he gets on over the cross-country fences once more. To win at five Festivals is amazing, what a horse.

“Aintree is off the agenda and we’ve no regrets about that. Both him and Easysland are rated too high. He is rated the equal of our Gold Cup horse, Delta Work, and we know he’s not as good.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“It’s going to be hard to retire him after that, now, and he loves racing in any case.

“He’ll probably have to run at Punchestown in the Grade One, where he will probably prove he is nowhere near a 166-rated horse, and it is a pity we have to do that.

“Cross-country racing got this horse back after he had completely lost his way, but we’ll have to go in a Grade One just to prove he has the wrong rating. He’s a cross-country horse, that’s what he is.

“Whatever we decide to do, and if he never wins another race, we will enjoy today.”

Donoghue said: “He really came alive today and jumped brilliant. I was in control of the race from halfway and within his comfort zone – when Tiger Roll is like that, you don’t take him back.

“We never doubted that we had him peaking for the right time. We were happy with his last run in Navan on ground that he absolutely hates.

“I knew the way he was going today, it would take a good horse to get by him.

“We had the faith and knew what this horse could show. There’s no better horse than Tiger Roll to silence the doubters.”

Tiger Roll came home well clear at Cheltenham
Tiger Roll came home well clear at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Lisa O’Neill, representing Foster, said: “He’s a sensation – words cannot describe what he is.

“He means so much to the team at home. Some people might have lost a bit of faith after his last few runs, but we retained all the faith we had in him and knew he still retained plenty of fire in his belly. He showed it there today.

“I suppose he disappointed here in November and then had a run over hurdles. Neither of those runs were too encouraging, but he tells you when he’s feeling alive at home and he loves coming to Cheltenham and coming up that hill and the sun on his back.

“He showed what ability he has today to turn the tables on Easysland from last year.

Tiger Roll (right) clears the barrels on his way to victory
Tiger Roll (right) clears the barrels on his way to victory (Michael Steele/PA)

“He’s been a revelation for Keith and Davy Russell, of course, winning two Grand Nationals.

“He showed real enthusiasm and sweetness for the game today.”

On not running in National, she added: “Gigginstown thought it was the best choice to take him out and I suppose they have his best interests at heart.

“We’ll go home and speak to the owners and see what the plan is then.”

There was a sad postscript to the race, as it emerged Kings Temptation suffered a fatal injury.

Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: “Sadly the Ben Case-trained Kings Temptation suffered a forelimb fracture in the cross-country race and had to be euthanised.”

Envoi Allen heads Marsh hopefuls

Envoi Allen heads 14 confirmations for the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham next week.

The unbeaten star was in the headlines last week when owners Cheveley Park Stud decided to move him to Henry de Bromhead’s yard in the wake of the Gordon Elliott case.

Already a dual winner at the Festival, he is likely to be one of the shortest-priced favourites of the meeting.

Willie Mullins has left in Monkfish for Thursday’s Grade One, but he is expected to take up his option in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase over the longer trip of three miles the previous day.

Asterion Forlonge, Blackbow and Franco De Port are Mullins’ other Marsh possibles.

Dan Skelton’s Shan Blue, a Grade One winner already this season, and Nicky Henderson’s Chantry House, lead the home team.

Chatham Street Lad, an impressive handicap winner at Cheltenham in December, is also engaged.

All the major players are still in the Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, better known as the Dawn Run.

They include Roseys Hollow, Royal Kahala, Gauloise, Hook Up and The Glancing Queen.

There are 31 left in the Pertemps Final – with the weights currently headed by The Bosses Oscar, now in the care of Denise Foster, and Harry Fry’s veteran Unowhatimeanharry.

Fergal O’Brien, still searching for his first Festival winner, has high hopes for Imperial Alcazar.

David Pipe’s Brinkley, Henderson’s Champagne Platinum and Tom George’s Come On Teddy have also all stood their ground.

The Paddy Power Plate has some quality at the head of the weights – which are topped by the Venentia Williams-trained Fanion D’Estruval.

Henderson’s duo of Top Notch and Caribean Boy, Sue Smith’s Midnight Shadow and O’Brien’s Paint The Dream all have smart form to their name.

In total 36 have been left in, and theyalso  include the Emmet Mullins-trained The Shunter – winner of the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso and chasing a £100,000 bonus. He still holds several entries through the week.

Double Shuffle leads the way in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup – which this year sees professional jockeys take the place of amateurs.

Kerry Lee’s Storm Control, the Philip Hobbs-trained Deise Aba and the ante-post favourite, Jonjo O’Neill’s Time To Get Up, are among the 31 remaining.

Jack Kennedy to partner Galvin in National Hunt Chase

Jack Kennedy is to ride Galvin in the Sam Vestey National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday.

Galvin has proven course form and is second-favourite for the three-and-three-quarter mile stamina test behind Royale Pagaille.

The seven-year-old has performed creditably at previous Festivals, finishing sixth in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in 2019 and runner-up to Imperial Aura in a two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase last year.

Galvin has won all his four starts since then, the latest coming over an extended three miles at Cheltenham in October.

He had been trained by Gordon Elliott, but with the County Meath handler suspended he is being looked after by County Antrim trainer Ian Ferguson, who has had a long association with Galvin’s owner Ronnie Bartlett. He bought Galvin for 34,000 euros at the sales in 2017.

“I look after Mr Bartlett’s horses, buy his horses for him and things. It’s no stranger for me to have Galvin in my yard,” said Ferguson.

“He came in good shape and he seems that way. We were just looking after him until he runs.

“The horse seems well and this was always the target he had from early on in the year. Hopefully he gets there safe and well.

“Jack Kennedy rides.”

BHA chief Harrington quells concerns over Foster’s Festival runners

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington is not anticipating any issues for Denise Foster-trained runners at next week’s Cheltenham Festival – although the regulator is still seeking to clarify conditions surrounding the transfer of Gordon Elliott’s string.

Foster, known on the Irish racing circuit as Sneezy, has taken charge of more than 200 horses – having previously trained just 10 winners in the preceding five years.

Elliott is currently banned for six months – with a further six suspended – following an image posted on social media which pictured him sat astride a dead horse.

With the Cheltenham Festival beginning on Tuesday, the BHA was pleased the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board handed out a swift punishment but is aware winners for the yard, which has been hugely successful at the meeting in recent years, will inevitably bring with them unwanted headlines.

Gordon Elliott is currently serving a suspension
Gordon Elliott is currently serving a suspension (Simon Marper/PA)

“We want the coverage to be about the great stories and the great achievements of the horses – it is the shop window for our sport,” Harrington said, in a zoom call with members of the media.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“It’s an opportunity for us to really shine and tell the positive stories that are linked to our sport.

“We’re doing everything we can to support everyone to tell those stories. We hope the focus is on the horses.

“We’re not naive, though – we know people will have questions, but what we don’t want to do is detract from all the hard work that goes into preparing horses for the Festival. It would be such a shame for everybody who has worked all year to get those horses ready to not get the airtime that they deserve.”

Should a Foster-trained runner be successful next week – and with the likes of Zanahiyr, Grand Roi and The Bosses Oscar all favourites for their respective races, the likelihood is there will at least be one – then Harrington is well aware of the potential to overshadow the meeting.

“If Denise Foster has winners at the Festivals, the story being around the connections of that horse is what I hope is put forward,” added Harrington.

“We are really pleased that our colleagues in Ireland acted swiftly, so that this wasn’t hanging over us throughout the Festival.

“That’s not as simple as to say ‘let’s draw a line under it and move on’ – but the sanction is in place. Our temporary ban is lifted, because Mr Elliott’s ban is in place, and those horses are free to run for other trainers.

“In terms of any conditions to her licence, that is a matter for the IHRB. But I’m in contact with Denis Egan (chief executive) at the IHRB, understanding what those conditions are for the good reputation of racing in Ireland and Britain.

The Elliott saga was all across the news last week
The Elliott saga was all across the news last week (PA Wire)

“We’re asking what conditions have been put in place. But that is a matter for the Irish – we’re currently seeking clarifications of what conditions are put in place. We’re assuming we’ll know before Cheltenham.

“It will be conditions to the licence rather than the sanction – that is where they will be applied. We’re asking for those but also making it clear what our views are on behalf of JCR (Jockey Club Racecourses) as well.

“We want to make sure that any horses attending are not clearly under the Gordon Elliott flag.

“I’ve made our views on it clear, and we’re waiting to hear what conditions will be applied to Denise. Then we will also be able to look, if we’re not happy, at what is available to us within our own rules.

“At this point we’re having really good discussions, so I’m not envisaging us getting to that point (preventing the horses running).”

Mullins’ Leopardstown treble signals fine form for Festival

Willie Mullins served notice his string is firing on all cylinders for next week’s Cheltenham Festival by saddling a treble on the final day of Leopardstown’s jumps season.

Dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo will lead an extremely powerful Cheltenham squad for the most successful trainer in Festival history – with the likes of Appreciate It, Chacun Pour Soi and Monkfish all carrying high expectations to the Cotswolds.

Mullins teamed up with champion jockey Paul Townend to win both divisions of the TRI Equestrian Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown, with Grand Bornand (11-10) and Elite Charboniere (4-6) justifying favouritism in the colours of Rich and Susannah Ricci.

“Elite Charboniere got the job done and he jumped the last like he would prefer a fence,” said Mullins.

“I think good ground is hugely beneficial to him, so he’ll keep going from now on.

“It’s the same with Grand Bornand, and we’ll probably target all the festivals with both of them.”

The Closutton handler’s hat-trick was completed by Eurotiep, who landed cramped odds of 1-6 under amateur rider Aubrey McMahon in the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Novice Hurdle.

Mullins added: “That’s great for Aubrey and the Down The Hatch Syndicate – that’s Aubrey’s third win on him, and they make a good team.

“Luke McMahon (rider’s father) put together the syndicate to buy this horse. He’ll go for the final of this race now at Punchestown. If there is something nice in between we might go for that, but the final is the big goal.

“He gallops and jumps – and he might be Aubrey’s first winner over fences next season.”

Gordon Elliott was narrowly denied a winner with his final runner before serving his suspension in the concluding TRI Equestrian Superstore & Cafe Flat Race.

Elliott, who will not send out any runners under his name for a minimum of six months because of the image of him sitting on a dead horse which emerged on social media, was represented by the Jamie Codd-ridden Top Bandit in the finale.

However, the 5-2 joint-favourite was ultimately unable to get the better of a thrilling duel with Oliver McKiernan’s 5-1 shot Meet And Greet – losing out by a nose.

McKiernan was completing a double following the earlier success of Fox Fearless (28-1) in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.

Monday Musings: Crime and Punishment

Sometime between Monday and Friday last week they got together and decided “Gordon’s not really a bad fella, so let’s not be too hard on him”, writes Tony Stafford. You could discern it in the columns of the Racing Post by his day-to-day journalist pals on the racecourse in Ireland as the original abhorrence to first seeing ‘that photo’ was gradually tempered into the “he isn’t really like that” version of the man.

So, by Friday, when the case was finally heard by the IHRB, everyone was patting himself on the back and saying a year ban, suspended for six months was “fair” and had “compassionate undertones”. By the weekend we heard Denise ‘Sneezy’ Foster, 67, who lives down the road and “has known Elliott for many years” was taking over the licence.

Apparently “she’s a legend” and has had ten winners – six Flat and four jumps – over the last five years from her small stable close to Elliott’s Cullentra House yard. If that qualifies her to run a stable which still had the mechanism to continue operations last week, sending out seven winners from 26 runners, including an up-yours four-timer last Monday at Punchestown, is another question.

The enormity of the operation in Co Meath, in the centre of the country, is mind-boggling especially in the context that its boss could often make do with Mrs Thatcher-like amounts of sleep after long sessions of partying and still be ready for the fray at dawn every morning.

It’s time to consider a few numbers. In the latest season, which of course was delayed by the onset of Covid19, Elliott has run 321 individual horses in Ireland. Today at Leopardstown he will send out (remotely I trust) the last six before handing over responsibility to Sneezy, taking his number of runners for the season beyond the 1,000 mark.

They have yielded 155 wins and earned €2.855 million. Over the past five years, 891 Irish wins have brought more than €20 million, only slightly less than the €24 million of his great rival Willie Mullins who this season, from fewer than half the runs, has 139 wins from 183 individual horses. Then there are the training fees on top. Who’ll be getting them?

I was intrigued by the six months suspended part of the IHRB ruling. What would cause its implementation? Would it require a similar offence to be committed in the interim six months? And if there is another similar historical photo in the ether showing him on a different stricken horse would that be the only situation in which the extra six months would take effect?

So let’s be honest. It’s six months from tomorrow taking him to September 8 and, while he does miss Cheltenham, Aintree and the big spring Irish Festival at Punchestown, from that point on, Galway apart, it’s something of a quiet off-season time for the top jumps stables in Ireland.

Your first 30 days for just £1

When Nicky Henderson got his three-month ban in 2011 that ran from July to October and barely ruffled his feathers in practical terms. While unable to go into the stables during that period, he continued to live in the main house and the horses were paraded on the lawn in front of his lounge picture window each morning. Off from July to October when he never has much going on, he was back in time for the first meetings at Kempton. Do the words ‘carve’ and ‘up’ come to mind either side of the Irish Sea?

Elliott will be in situ during his suspension and, while he voluntarily stated he would neither go to any race meeting or point-to-point fixture during the course of the suspension, no doubt he could still offer advice to the new boss.

We like to think that the concept of a punishment suitable to fit the crime is still valid. But when you consider how easy in modern society it is for an unwise word to be regarded as of an offensive nature and enough to earn a prison sentence, the Elliott picture becomes clouded. For a couple of days, outrage was universal around the world and racing’s always delicate position with its vociferous opponents was perilous.

Penalties in horse racing can be draconian. Look, for example, at the case of Charles Byrnes, an acknowledged touch-merchant whose six-month ban for “inexcusable behaviour” and negligence surrounding the running of Viking Hoard at Tramore In October 2018 was confirmed at an appeal last month.

The horse, a drifter from 4-1 to 8-1 before the race, stopped suddenly with seven furlongs to run. He had been laid heavily on Betfair that day and on two further occasions when Byrnes sent him over to race in the UK.

Each time substantial five-figure bets were placed by a third party on Betfair and no connection to Byrnes has been established. The negligence case on the Tramore run was based on the decision of Byrnes and his son to leave the horse unattended for 20 to 25 minutes when they went for their lunch. It was obviously the “suspicious drift” and the big lay bets that alerted Betfair who routinely share such information with the authorities.

Returning to Mr Elliott, such was the disgust at the photo that on the 6pm BBC news last Monday evening, in the headlines, after the news of Covid and the rest, they turned to sport. The first and only headline item was that picture. I think Elliott was very fortunate that he didn’t get the full year the committee suggested it meted out.

Nicky Henderson’s three-month summer sojourn didn’t harm his career – if anything it had more negatives for his then two assistants Tom Symonds and Ben Pauling when they left to start their own training businesses.

So suggestions that Elliott will be in any way harmed by his own gentle sabbatical are probably over-stating the potential impact. Gigginstown, his biggest supporter, quickly stood firmly behind him and they are no longer recruiting from the point-to-point field, so he’s not missing as much there either.

*

Meanwhile, an inexperienced amateur rider felt the wrath of an Irish stewards’ panel at Leopardstown yesterday. Young Aaron Fahey, riding the newcomer Lake Winnipesaukee in the concluding bumper, was carried to the front of the field by his hard-pulling mount after four furlongs when the saddle slipped.

The horse continued going easily miles clear of the field until turning for home when he took the wrong course, going to the outside of a rail. Fahey, who has ridden three winners from 11 rides this season, told the stewards he was very tired and unable fully to control the horse which his father trains. They ruled him “negligent” and banned him for 14 days.

Clearly, it’s not what you do: it’s who you are.

*

Denise Foster won’t be going to Cheltenham with the Cullentra House horses, but never mind Sneezy, nor am I. Neither will French Aseel, who has had a setback – good job I switched Triumph horses to Tritonic (cough) - but then Sneezy still has some left in that race even after the Cheveley Park contingent jumped ship.

At last count her new stable has 111 total entries at the Festival many with multiple targets. I’m sure while she won’t be there she’ll be checking that Weatherbys have the correct bank details to send her the trainer’s percentages, which must come to a nice few quid.

One race she will have to watch closely is the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle on the final day. Of the stable’s 34 last-day entries, a dozen are in the race Elliott loves to win in homage to the time he spent at Pond House in his formative years before becoming a trainer.

Another Cheltenham absentee will be Alan Spence who will have no runners at the meeting with On The Blind Side waiting for Aintree. One race he will have in his sights before then, though, is the Dubai World Cup.

Spence part-owned and bred Salute The Soldier, who won four of 14 races when trained by Clive Cox, only once finishing out of the frame. The partners were elated when he was sold at the end of his four-year-old career for 380,000gns after reaching a BHA handicap mark of 104.

Bahraini owner-trainer Fawzi Nass was the buyer and, transferred to his Dubai Carnival stable, the gelding won twice at up to Grade 3 level in his first season there. This time round it has been two wins from three runs for the six-year-old, first a Group 2 and then on Super Saturday last weekend he made all to win Round 3 of the Al Maktoum Challenge, his first at Group 1 level.

I tried in vain looking on the Emirates Racing Authority site to see whether there’s a breeder’s prize for the winner. With $12 million to go round there ought to be and I’m sure Alan would have been checking even as his great favourite went over the line on Saturday. If not, he and former co-owning partner Mr Hargreaves might ask Fawzi for a hand-out should the Soldier beat off the American dirt stars on March 27 at Meydan.

Denise Foster looking forward to taking over licence from Gordon Elliott on Monday

Denise Foster has spoken of a “great responsibility” as she prepares to take over the reins at Gordon Elliott’s yard on Monday following the Grand National-winning trainer’s suspension.

Elliott was on Friday banned for 12 months, with the last six months suspended, following an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board referrals hearing into the image posted on social media last weekend of the trainer sitting on a dead horse.

Like Elliott, Foster, who has sent out 10 winners over the past five seasons, on the Flat and over jumps combined, is based in County Meath.

An initial statement confirming the plans on Elliott’s official Twitter account was posted on Saturday afternoon, before being deleted and reposted to read: “Gordon Elliott Racing is pleased to confirm that Denise Foster will take over the licence at Cullentra Stables during the period of Gordon Elliott’s suspension.

“Denise is vastly experienced and her appointment is great news for staff and owners.”

Gordon Elliott has enjoyed great success at the Cheltenham Festival
Gordon Elliott has enjoyed great success at the Cheltenham Festival (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Your first 30 days for just £1

A further statement said it hoped “the current level of employment provided at our stables will continue”, adding that all entries will be made by Foster and that she will be responsible for all operations.

An experienced horsewoman who has trained racehorses since 1998 when she took over from her husband, David Foster, a three-time Olympian, following his death in a riding accident, Foster will move her existing string from Enfield – around eight kilometres away – to Cullentra for the duration.

Foster enjoyed Listed success with Lily’s Rainbow in the 2016 Heritage Stakes at Navan and counts JP McManus as one of her owners.

She said: “I am honoured to take over from Gordon and realise he is a hard act to follow. I am delighted by the contacts I have had with the owners and staff to date. This a great responsibility but I could not ask for a better set up.

“I will take charge from Monday.”

Envoi Allen has left Gordon Elliott
Envoi Allen has left Gordon Elliott (PA)

Having already imposed an interim suspension on Elliott-trained runners in Britain until the conclusion of the IHRB’s investigation, the British Horseracing Authority immediately confirmed it would reciprocate the ban.

However, the BHA added that Elliott’s horses would be allowed to run at Cheltenham and Aintree if “transferred directly to other licenced trainers prior to March 9.”

A spokesperson for the IHRB said on Saturday: “Anyone that would want to take over the care of horses on a different premises would need to be a licensed trainer.

“If a licensed trainer wanted to move from their own premises to a different premises, they would need to go to the licensing committee.

“That would not generally be a lengthy process.”

On Tuesday, leading owners Cheveley Park Stud moved their horses from Elliott to Willie Mullins and Henry de Bromhead. Among those was the unbeaten Envoi Allen, who has joined De Bromhead.

Denise Foster to take over licence from Gordon Elliott

Denise Foster is set to take over the reins at Gordon Elliott’s yard following the Grand National-winning trainer’s suspension.

Elliott was on Friday banned for 12 months, with the last six months suspended, following an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board referrals hearing into the image posted on social media last weekend of the trainer sitting on a dead horse.

Foster, who has sent out 10 winners over the past five seasons, on the Flat and over jumps combined, will take over the licence at Cullentra House in the coming days.

An initial statement confirming the plans on Elliott’s official Twitter account was posted on Saturday afternoon, before being deleted and reposted to read: “Gordon Elliott Racing is pleased to confirm that Denise Foster will take over the licence at Cullentra Stables during the period of Gordon Elliott’s suspension.

“Denise is vastly experienced and her appointment is great news for staff and owners.”

Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board headquarters at the Curragh
Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board headquarters at the Curragh (Brian Lawless/PA)

Like Elliott based in County Meath, Foster enjoyed Listed success with Lily’s Rainbow in the 2016 Heritage Stakes at Navan and counts JP McManus as one of her owners.

Having already imposed an interim suspension on Elliott-trained runners in Britain until the conclusion of the IHRB’s investigation, the British Horseracing Authority immediately confirmed it would reciprocate the ban.

However, the BHA added that Elliott’s horses would be allowed to run at Cheltenham and Aintree if “transferred directly to other licenced trainers prior to March 9.”

Envoi Allen has left Gordon Elliott
Envoi Allen has left Gordon Elliott (PA)

A spokesperson for the IHRB said on Saturday: “Anyone that would want to take over the care of horses on a different premises would need to be a licensed trainer.

“If a licensed trainer wanted to move from their own premises to a different premises, they would need to go to the licensing committee.

“That would not generally be a lengthy process.”

On Tuesday, leading owners Cheveley Park Stud moved their horses from Elliott to Willie Mullins and Henry de Bromhead. Among those was the unbeaten Envoi Allen, who has joined De Bromhead.

Silver Birch paved a path full of racing gold for Gordon Elliott

Gordon Elliott has certainly enjoyed a stratospheric rise to the top of the National Hunt game, bagging a Grand National winner when the ink was barely dry on his training licence.

A native of Summerhill in County Meath, Elliott sent out his first winner via Arresting at Perth in June 2006 – and he had not even trained a winner in Ireland when Silver Birch won the most famous race of all the following spring.

At the age of just 29, Elliott wrote his name into the record books as the youngest to saddle a Grand National winner as Silver Birch – a former Welsh National hero for Paul Nicholls – completed an amazing renaissance to thrust his trainer into the spotlight.

Elliott and his first National winner Silver Birch
Elliott and his first National winner Silver Birch (Niall Carson/PA)

Elliott has barely looked back after that success. His evident talent allowed him to build up an increasingly powerful team and plenty of momentum, with Chicago Grey becoming the first of 32 Cheltenham Festival winners when lifting the National Hunt Chase in 2011.

His achievements are all the more impressive when you consider Elliott does not come from a racing background – his father was a panel-beater rather than a champion trainer or jockey.

Instead Elliott learnt his craft by initially working for trainer Tony Martin, going on to become a crack amateur rider – partnering a Grade One bumper winner at Punchestown in 1998 – and working for Martin Pipe before striking out on his own.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Elliott celebrated Gold Cup glory with Don Cossack
Elliott celebrated Gold Cup glory with Don Cossack (PA)

Festival winners have become a regular occurrence, and Elliott did not have to wait too long for a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner as Don Cossack claimed the Festival showpiece in 2016.

Five times a Grade One scorer before going for the blue riband, Don Cossack benefited from the fall of £1million-bonus-chasing Cue Card three fences from home – but sadly did not get chance to confirm superstar status as injury subsequently ended his career.

Elliott had any amount of firepower at his disposal, though – and despite that blow, the wagon has kept on rolling with the likes of supermare Apple’s Jade regularly bagging Grade One prizes, while Samcro landed a monster gamble in the 2018 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

However, Tiger Roll’s Grand National win in 2018 was to prove the start of something really special as the plucky, pony-sized chaser soared over the Aintree fences – following up 12 months later to become the first back-to-back winner since the great Red Rum in 1974.

Tiger Roll has given Gordon Elliott two never-to-forgotten days at Aintree
Tiger Roll has given Gordon Elliott two never-to-be-forgotten days at Aintree (Mike Egerton/PA)

The coronavirus pandemic robbed Tiger Roll of a shot at racing history when the 2020 running was cancelled.

Flat success is also not beyond Elliott’s remit, with Dirar landing the 2010 Ebor at York before Commissioned gave him a notable Royal Ascot victory in the 2016 Queen Alexandra Stakes.

Group-race glory awaited in 2017 too, as Beckford claimed the Railway Stakes at the Curragh – proving Elliott’s ability under both codes.

A trainers’ championship has continued to elude him, as his heavyweight battles with Willie Mullins have become something of the norm over the last few seasons.

He came agonisingly close in the 2016-17 campaign, holding the lead until the penultimate day of the season when perennial champion Mullins edged back in front in a competition determined by prize-money, rather than the number of winners saddled.

Apple’s Jade was a prolific winner for Gordon Elliott
Apple’s Jade was a prolific winner for Gordon Elliott (Brian Lawless/PA)

Elliott sent out 193 winners that year compared to the 180 of Mullins, but fell £200,000 short – while the following year he saddled 210 winners, yet Mullins still topped him with two more wins and a chunk more money.

Elliott, who turned 43 on Tuesday, has finished runner-up in each of the last eight seasons and is again in second place this term.

He had been looking forward to another winner-packed Cheltenham, led by superstar-in-waiting Envoi Allen – but those dreams have been shattered by recent events and the future will now concern a major rebuilding of both his training operation and reputation.

British Horseracing Authority welcomes resolution to Elliott investigation

Officials at the British Horseracing Authority have welcomed the resolution of the investigation into the image of Grand National-winning trainer Gordon Elliott posted on social media.

A hearing by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board referrals committee banned Elliott from training for 12 months – with the last six months suspended – after an image emerged last weekend of Elliott sat on a dead horse.

The BHA had already imposed an interim suspension on Elliott runners in Britain until the conclusion of the investigation.

A statement read: “We welcome the fact that the Irish authorities have acted swiftly. The suspension will be reciprocated here in Great Britain. The existing restriction on Mr Elliott having runners in Great Britain will stay in place until the suspension takes effect on March 9.

Envoi Allen has moved from Gordon Elliott to Henry de Bromhead
Envoi Allen has moved from Gordon Elliott to Henry de Bromhead (PA)

“The IHRB Referrals Committee pointed to the fact that the photo showed appalling bad taste and demonstrates a complete absence of respect for the horse. We endorse these comments, and the view that respect is an integral and essential part of the duty of those in charge of animals.

“Today’s decision confirms that horses will not be able to run at the Cheltenham Festival or Grand National Festival in the name of Gordon Elliott.

“However, if horses are transferred directly to other licensed trainers prior to March 9 – when the suspension is due to commence – they will be able to run.”

The Cheltenham Festival is scheduled to get under way on March 16, with the Grand National meeting starting on April 8.

Gordon Elliott banned for one year with six months suspended

Gordon Elliott has been handed a 12-month ban, with the last six months suspended, following an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board referrals hearing into the image posted on social media last weekend of the Grand National-winning trainer sitting on a dead horse.

In a statement issued late on Sunday evening, Elliott confirmed the image 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.

Dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll has been one of Gordon Elliott's biggest stars
Dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll has been one of Gordon Elliott’s biggest stars (Mike Egerton/PA)

The image was roundly condemned by racing authorities in Britain and Ireland, with the IHRB announcing an immediate investigation and the British Horseracing Authority issuing a temporary suspension on Elliott’s runners until its conclusion.

On Tuesday, leading owners Cheveley Park Stud removed their horses from Elliott, with the unbeaten Envoi Allen one of those to join Henry de Bromhead.

In addition to the suspension, Elliott was also ordered to pay costs of €15,000.

After considering the evidence, a statement from the IHRB referrals committee said in its view “there is also a sinister aspect to this case. The committee are satisfied that the publication of this photograph is part of a concerted attack on Mr Elliott, the full circumstances of which are unknown.

Envoi Allen has left Gordon Elliott
Envoi Allen has left Gordon Elliott (PA)

“This has been canvassed not for the purposes of defence or absolution but in order to explain the publication of a photograph that has existed since 2019.”

Your first 30 days for just £1

In considering sanctions, it said “the committee recognises that the sanction must be arrived at taking into account all of the circumstances, and the aggravating and mitigating factors including Mr Elliott’s personal circumstances, in order to achieve a proportionate result.”

Among the matters considered was the fact “outrage has been expressed by the racing and non-racing public that a horse, albeit deceased, could be treated in this manner.”

The IHRB said Elliott had “expressed what we believe to be a genuine remorse and accepts that he is unlikely to forget this episode in his life”, with committee adding it believed he “genuinely accepts that he was extraordinarily foolish to participate in the way he did”.

It added: “Whilst the incident in question was unforgivable, it was, nonetheless, an event which took place without deliberation or forethought over a time period of some seconds. There was a pointed absence of common sense.”

Elliott will not appeal the decision and said he has “a long road ahead of me but I will serve my time and then build back better.”

IHRB headquarters at the Curragh
IHRB headquarters at the Curragh (Brian Lawless/PA)

In a statement, he said: “I accept my situation and my sanction and I am satisfied with my engagement with the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board. It is not an easy job to sit on the panel but I was dealt with fairly.

“I am in this situation by my own action and I am not going to dodge away from this. With my position in the sport I have great privileges and great responsibility. I did not live up to that responsibility.

“I am no longer the teenage boy who first rode a horse at Tony Martin’s 30 years ago. I am an adult with obligations and a position in a sport I have loved since I first saw horses race.

“I am paying a very heavy price for my error but I have no complaints. It breaks my heart to see the hurt I have caused to my colleagues, family, friends and supporters. I have a long road ahead of me but I will serve my time and then build back better.

“Horses are my life. I love them. No-one comes into racing for money – it is a hard way to make a living. We are here because we love the horses. Anyone who has visited my stables at Cullentra will see the meticulous care with which we treat our horses.

“I was disrespectful to a dead horse, an animal that had been a loyal servant to me and was loved by my staff.

“I will carry the burden of my transgressions for the rest of my career. I will never again disrespect a horse, living or dead, and I will not tolerate it in others.

“Finally I want to thank my owners and my staff who, despite being let down by me, have been unstinting in their support. I will vindicate their faith in me.”

Denis Egan, CEO of the IHRB, felt the case had been dealt with “fairly and appropriately”, but lamented the “damage to the reputation of the sport”.

In a statement, he said: “Where breaches of rules occur and where participants in racing act in a manner that brings the sport into disrepute, there are no winners, and in fact, the loss is to Irish racing with damage to the reputation of the sport.

“Having acted with thoroughness and having followed due process at all times, the IHRB team are satisfied that the case has been dealt with fairly and appropriately.

“Our team who prepared the case worked tirelessly since the issue emerged just a few days ago and ensured their investigation, presented today and with the support of our legal team, was thorough, fair to the parties involved, and above all, focused on ensuring that the integrity and good reputation of the sport is upheld.”

The IHRB underlined its programme of unannounced stable yard inspections, in addition to sampling over 5,000 horses, regulating over 380 race meetings and approximately 100 point-to-point fixtures, while vowing to “pursue with impartiality any rule breaches that we uncover”.

Egan added: “Ireland and its racehorse trainers, riders, breeders and workers are held in high regard globally providing some of the very best horses and the very best racing talent.

“We recognise the heartfelt upset that this matter has caused to people inside and outside of racing, none more so than to the staff employed by Mr Elliott. We also see at first hand both on the racecourse and as part of our stable inspection programme that horses receive unrivalled care, attention, and affection.

“Indeed, as part of the investigation into this very case, an unannounced stable inspection of Mr Elliott’s yard this week led to no concerns about the welfare of the horses in his care, as has been the case during any other inspection we carried out at his premises each year.

“In our opinion the incident covered in today’s hearing is not reflective of Irish racing.”

Kennedy ‘delighted’ to keep ride on Envoi Allen

Jack Kennedy has spoken of his relief at news he will keep the ride on Envoi Allen at the Cheltenham Festival, despite the unbeaten superstar being switched from Gordon Elliott to Henry de Bromhead earlier this week.

Leading owner-breeders Cheveley Park Stud removed Envoi Allen and seven of his stable companions from Elliott’s care on Tuesday, following the image involving the trainer that was posted and widely shared on social media last weekend.

Kennedy, who has taken over in the saddle from the injured Davy Russell aboard Envoi Allen this season, might have feared he would lose the plum ride on the seven-year-old to De Bromhead’s stable jockey Rachael Blackmore.

Envoi Allen has carried all before him so far
Envoi Allen has carried all before him so far (PA)

Your first 30 days for just £1

However, Cheveley Park confirmed Kennedy will not only retain the mount when Envoi Allen in the Marsh Novices’ Chase in a fortnight’s time, but he will also partner Ballyadam and Quilixios – who have also joined Bromhead – for their respective Festival assignments.

Speaking after riding the Elliott-trained Daphne Moon to success at Fairyhouse on Friday, Kennedy told Racing TV: “I’m kind of a lucky one, getting to keep the rides on Envoi Allen, Quilixios and Ballyadam.

“When you’re riding horses like that and you’re kind of comfortable that barring an injury you’re going to be riding them, and then something like this happens, you’re kind of all over the place. I’m delighted that I’m keeping the rides on them.”

Kennedy has plenty of sympathy for his colleagues at Elliott’s Cullentra House stables, adding: “It’s tough for everyone in the yard.

“They were devastated when those horses were leaving and it’s just a massive blow to a team that work so hard.”

Minella Indo will be ridden by Jack Kennedy in the Gold Cup
Minella Indo will be ridden by Jack Kennedy in the Gold Cup (Brian Lawless/PA)

In another boost to his Festival hopes, Kennedy has been booked by De Bromhead to partner Minella Indo in the Gold Cup, with Blackmore preferring his Cheveley Park-owned stablemate A Plus Tard.

Minella Indo was last seen finishing fourth behind Kemboy when favourite for the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

“I was kind of left with no ride in the race and Henry rang me last week and asked if I would ride him,” said the jockey.

“It’s brilliant to pick up a spin like that. I was down in Henry’s on Tuesday and popped him over a few fences and got a feel of him.

“I’m really looking forward to the ride. You can forgive a horse a bad run and I’m delighted to have got the ride.”

Envoi Allen settling in after high-profile move to Henry de Bromhead

Envoi Allen is reported to be settling in well after his move to Henry de Bromhead’s yard.

The unbeaten seven-year-old is arguably the most exciting National Hunt horse in training, having twice won at the Cheltenham Festival. He is three from three over fences since switching to the larger obstacles this season.

His high-profile transfer to De Bromhead’s Waterford stable came this week, as Cheveley Park Stud moved their horses from Gordon Elliott after an image of the County Meath trainer sitting on a dead horse emerged on social media at the weekend.

Envoi Allen has been foot-perfect so far over fences
Envoi Allen has been foot-perfect so far over fences (PA)

Also now with De Bromhead from Elliott in the Cheveley silks is smart four-year-old hurdler Quilixios, who enhanced his reputation with a Grade One victory at the Dublin Racing Festival, and fellow top-level scorer Ballyadam, who was last seen finishing second to Appreciate It at Leopardstown. Jack Kennedy is the regular partner of all three, and that is set to remain the case.

Your first 30 days for just £1

De Bromhead said: “It’s obviously not the circumstances of how you’d like to get horses, but these are the horses everyone’s trying to get and I feel fortunate that Cheveley Park have decided to send them to us. The three that are entered for Cheltenham include Envoi Allen and he seems great.

“They came down and they looked great when they arrived here, so it’s just a case of trying to tick them over and not let the change of regime upset them too much. If we can do as good a job as Gordon has done with them, we’ll be delighted.

“They arrived on Tuesday evening, and we’re just letting them settle in. They’re cantering away. You wouldn’t be working them, but they’re hacking away and they’re great.”

Quilixios is a leading contender for the Triumph Hurdle
Quilixios is a leading contender for the Triumph Hurdle (Niall Carson/PA)

Quilixios has the JCB Triumph Hurdle and the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle as options, with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle set to be preferred for Ballyadam over the Ballymore, while Envoi Allen is hot favourite for the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

De Bromhead said: “He’s a gorgeous horse and we feel very fortunate that Cheveley Park have sent him to us.

“Quilixios is in both the Fred Winter (Boodles) and the Triumph. I haven’t really firmed up on that as yet, so we’ll discuss that with Cheveley Park at the time and see what we’d like to do. He’s in both, so we’ll see nearer the time. Quilixios seems good. We’re only hacking away, but he seems to have taken it in his stride.

“I would imagine we’re leaning towards the Supreme with Ballyadam, but we’ll keep our options open.

“Jack has ridden him all year and he will ride the three of them if he is available.”

He added: “It is a big change for them and you try to keep it as simple as possible, but it is a big change.

“But they seem good and they’ve settled in really well, so we’ll just tick them over and try to get them there in good shape.”

Friday morning start for Gordon Elliott hearing

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s referrals committee will begin hearing evidence at 9.30am on Friday, in the Gordon Elliott investigation.

Elliott has been “cooperating fully” with the IHRB since it was announced after a photograph of him sitting on a dead horse was posted on social media last weekend.

The top Irish trainer has subsequently become subject to a temporary British Horseracing Authority ban on running any of his string in Britain, while top owners Cheveley Park Stud have moved their high-profile horses away from his yard.

Among those is the unbeaten Envoi Allen, who is now in the care of Henry de Bromhead.