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Gordon Elliott not allowed to enter horses in British races while Irish probe into photo of him sitting on dead horse is ongoing


Gordon Elliot

Gordon Elliot

Gordon Elliot

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has said it won't allow Gordon Elliott to race horses in Britain while he is being investigated by Irish officials.

The major development comes just two weeks before the Cheltenham festival is due to take place where several prestigious horses trained by Elliott are due to race.

He is under investigation by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) after an image emerged of him sitting on a dead horse holding a phone and gesturing to the camera. The image was taken at his Meath gallops but it has not yet been confirmed when it was taken.

In a statement the BHA said it will not allow him to race in the UK using "powers under its own rules to refuse to allow horses trained by 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," it said.

Owners for horses currently trained by Mr Elliott are permitted to transfer them to a different trainer and run them at a British meeting, providing they comply with the relevant rules.

Since confirming its investigation the IHRB has not made any further comment.

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Yesterday Mr Elliott issued a statement saying he apologised “for any offence that this photo has caused” which “was taken some time ago”.

He added: “I appreciate that an initial viewing of this photo suggests it is a callous and staged photo but nothing could be further from the truth.

“I was standing over the horse waiting to help with the removal of the body, in the course of which, to my memory I received a call and, without thinking, I sat down to take it. Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished.”

There has been widespread condemnation over the image and a petition for Elliott to be banned by British authorities has been signed almost 2,000 times.

Betting exchange giant Betfair has also ended its involvement with him.

However, despite the widespread criticism, the Gigginstown-stud owned by Michael O’Leary has pledged its support for the top trainer.

Mr Elliott and Gigginstown have had a lengthy fruitful partnership with Cheltenham Gold Cup success for Don Cossack in 2016 and successive Aintree Grand National victories for Tiger Roll among a string of high-profile prizes.

In a statement Mr O’Leary said he accepts that the photograph was a “momentary lapse of judgment” and not in keeping with their 15-year experience of “his concern and attention to the welfare” of their 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 profound, sincere 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,” Mr O’Leary said.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue has said he was “appalled” by the photograph of Mr Elliot sitting on a dead horse.

In a statement, he said: “The photograph is not reflective of the highest animal welfare standards we demand for the sector nor does it reflect the tremendous care horses receive in Ireland. It is not the kind of image we want associated with horse racing in Ireland.

"I am aware of the investigation being carried out by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Body (IHRB) and support the move. As this is an ongoing investigation, it is inappropriate to comment further,” he added.

Green Party Cabinet Minister Pippa Hackett has said she found the photograph of Mr Elliot sitting on a dead horse “quite sickening” and welcomed the investigation by the IHRB.

“Gordon Elliot has shown a very concerning and disturbing error of judgment and I look forward to a swift investigation by the IHRB,” Ms Hackett told Independent.ie.

The Minster of State in Department of Agriculture added that it is “appalling to see a high-profile trainer behave in such a manner”.

The Green Party senator breeds races horses on her Offaly farm which have gone on to win high-profile races. The Department of Agriculture has oversight of State funding for horseracing.

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