British trainers have voiced their “outrage and disgust” at the photograph of Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse which has shocked British and Irish racing.
Grand National and Gold Cup-winning trainer Elliott will be “cooperating fully” with an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board investigation into the incident.
After County Meath-based Elliott confirmed the image – posted on Twitter on Saturday night – is genuine, counterparts in Britain have made their disquiet clear to the national representative body.
A statement on Monday read: “From yesterday evening through today, the National Trainers Federation has been contacted by its members expressing outrage and disgust at the image of Gordon Elliott circulating on social media.
“Although Mr Elliott is based in Ireland, the NTF – which represents trainers based in Great Britain – wishes the public to be in no doubt that its members distance themselves from the behaviour on display in that image, and want to emphasise their deeply felt values of care, respect and love for the racehorse.
“These values underpin the public’s confidence in the sport, and are indispensable to the future prosperity of all who work in horseracing.”
Grand National-winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald spoke of his shock and sadness after discovering the image was genuine.
Fitzgerald, a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner too in his distinguished riding career, initially thought and hoped the photograph on Elliott’s gallops was a fake – until a statement from the trainer dispelled those doubts on Sunday.
Fitzgerald told Sky Sports Racing: “When I read that statement, I can’t help but feel anything else but so sad.
“The number one thing we have to get out to everybody is how much we care about these horses.
“It is so important that everybody who is watching this channel, who has any interest at all in our sport, knows that at the heart of this are people who love these animals.”
Fitzgerald spoke personally, and also on the wider topic of the public’s perception of racing.
He said: “My initial reaction to it was ‘I hope it’s a fake’. That was what I thought – ‘it has to be fake’.
“It’s making me quite emotional, because these horses have given me a life that I’m privileged to have, and it just makes me feel so sad.
“I’ve been in situations where horses that I have looked after and ridden have unfortunately paid the ultimate sacrifice in our sport, and the care and attention they get right to the end – we have to emphasise to everyone watching that people care for these horses.
“We want to celebrate them (horses) and make them realise how much we care for them and how much they are loved by everybody in the sport.
“Anyone watching has to realise that we have nothing but the interests of these animals at heart.”