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BHA announces interim suspension on Elliott runners in Britain

Gordon Elliott will not be permitted to have runners in Britain until the conclusion of an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board investigation into an image on social media that showed the Grand National-winning trainer sitting on a dead horse on his gallops.

Racing authorities in Britain and Ireland have condemned the image, which Elliott confirmed in a statement on Sunday evening was genuine, apologising “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 photograph.

The IHRB has already launched a full investigation – and while Elliott is licensed in Ireland, the British Horseracing Authority said it was “appalled” by the image and was “considering its own regulatory options”, but has now acted.

A statement on Monday evening said: “The British Horseracing Authority 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.

British Horseracing Authority headquarters in London
British Horseracing Authority headquarters in London (John Stillwell/PA)

“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.”

The BHA added that owners of horses currently trained by Elliott are permitted to transfer them to a different trainer and run them at a British meeting, “providing they comply with the relevant rules”.

An earlier statement had 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.”

Black Tears was a winner at Punchestown on Monday for Elliott
Black Tears was a winner at Punchestown on Monday for Elliott (Niall Carson/PA)

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.

Tiger Roll 2019 Grand National Winners Parade
Michael O’Leary will continue to support Elliott (Brian Lawless/PA)

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.”

The four-day Cheltenham Festival is due to get under way on March 16.

British and Irish racing authorities condemn Elliott image

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.”

Black Tears was a winner at Punchestown on Monday for Elliott
Black Tears was a winner at Punchestown on Monday for Elliott (Niall Carson/PA)

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.

Tiger Roll 2019 Grand National Winners Parade
Michael O’Leary will continue to support Elliott (Brian Lawless/PA)

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.”

O’Leary will ‘continue to support’ Elliott despite ‘unacceptable’ photograph

Gigginstown House Stud and Ryanair owner Michael O’Leary will maintain his support for Gordon Elliott following the release of an image of the Grand National-winning trainer on social media.

While there were initial doubts about the authenticity of a photograph which was posted and widely shared on Saturday, Elliott confirmed in a statement late on Sunday evening that the image – which shows him sitting on a dead horse on the gallops – was in fact genuine.

Elliott said in his statement that he “cannot apologise enough”, and that he wanted to “apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused”, while seeking to explain the context of events that led to the picture.

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has launched a full investigation, and a spokesman said on Monday that the matter will be dealt with “as quickly as possible”.

Gordon Elliott and Michael O'Leary with Tiger Roll
Gordon Elliott and Michael O’Leary with Tiger Roll (Brian Lawless/PA)

Through his Gigginstown operation, O’Leary has been one of Elliott’s biggest supporters – with the pair most notably combining to win two Randox Grand Nationals at Aintree with the hugely popular Tiger Roll.

In a statement issued on Monday, O’Leary – who together with Elliott also won the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup with Don Cossack – described the photograph in question as “unacceptable”, but said he accepted the trainer’s “sincere, profound and unreserved apology”.

The statement read: “Eddie (O’Leary, brother) and I were deeply disappointed by the unacceptable photo which appeared on social media over the weekend.

“The care and welfare of all our animals comes first with all our trainers. Sadly, from time to time, our horses suffer injuries and/or fatalities and we expect all such cases to be treated with the care and attention they deserve.

“We have always found that animal welfare comes first, second and third at Cullentra. From the facilities, to the brilliant team of people led by Gordon, our horses are trained with no expense spared for their development, welfare and care.

“We accept that this photograph was a grievous but momentary lapse of judgement by Gordon, and not in keeping with our 15-year experience of his concern for and attention to the welfare of our horses.

“We all make mistakes, and what is important is that we learn from them and ensure we do not repeat them.

“We accept Gordon’s sincere, profound and unreserved apology and we will continue to support him and his team at Cullentra, as they work to recover from this deeply regrettable incident.”

Envoi Allen returning to the winner's enclosure at Cheltenham last year
Envoi Allen returning to the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham last year (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Cheveley Park Stud will await the outcome of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board investigation before making any decisions on the future of the several high-profile horses they have in training with Elliott.

The hugely successful breeders and owners, more renowned for their success on the Flat, have ramped up their interest in National Hunt racing in recent years and have already enjoyed multiple big-race winners at the Cheltenham Festival.

The most notable is 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.

The seven-year-old is a hot favourite to win at Cheltenham for a third time in the Marsh Novices’ Chase on March 18.

Cheveley Park released a statement in which they said they were “horrified” and dismayed” by the image.

The statement read: “We are truly horrified and dismayed by the photograph doing the rounds on social media. However, we will await the official outcome of the investigation by the IHRB, which we trust will be swift, before making any further comment/decisions.”

Other horses Cheveley Park currently have in training with Elliott include Supreme Novices’ Hurdle contender Ballyadam, unbeaten juvenile hurdler Quilixios and leading Champion Bumper contender Sir Gerhard.