Jockey and former RTÉ broadcaster Tracy Pigott said she couldn’t sleep last night after seeing the picture of Gordon Elliot sitting on a dead horse.
“I am deeply shocked because it’s the most horrendous type of publicity for the business and we need all the help we can get, we have been hit by Covid and so many things,” she said on RTÉ Radio 1’s Liveline.
“I think it’s very very sad, I couldn’t sleep last night because of it. I know some people would say ‘it’s only a horse and the horse is dead’ but it’s much bigger than that and brings so many things into question.”
Ms Pigott said she doesn’t doubt Mr Gordon regrets his actions deeply, but that it’s caused “so much hurt”.
“It’s caused so much hurt, so much anger and so much terrible publicity. I think we need to remember at the heart of this it’s an animal that has made millions and millions for people over the years and continues to do so.
“I think it’s a very very sad day for Irish racing and I’m deeply upset about it.”
When asked if the situation is an aberration in the horse racing industry, the jockey said “absolutely”.
She added: “I can’t get my head around it to be honest, and I’m sure you can hear the emotion in my voice.”
Horse trainer Elliott apologised “profoundly" after a photograph of him sitting on the dead horse was widely circulated on social media over the weekend.
In the photograph, the 42-year-old, who is one of Ireland’s most successful trainers, can be seen smiling at the camera while on his mobile phone.
The Longwood, Co Meath-based trainer is also displaying a peace sign with his left hand.
There had been some speculation the photograph may be a fake or had been digitally manipulated.
However, Mr Elliott confirmed it was taken “some time ago”.
It is now the subject of an investigation by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IRHB).
In a statement, he said: “I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused and can categorically state that the welfare of each and every horse under my care is paramount and has been central to the success that we have enjoyed here at Cullentra.
"The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops. 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.
"At what was a sad time, which it is when any horse under my care passes away, my initial reaction was to get the body removed from where it was positioned.
"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.
"Such background information may seem trivial at this time and will not allay the concerns of many people both within and outside the world of horse racing.
"However, I feel it is important to provide people with some context surrounding this photo. To the racing community, to anyone who has worked with and loves horses and to anyone offended by this image I cannot apologise enough.
"Horse welfare and the care and attention to detail involved is absolutely at the core of everything we do here and both myself and all of my team pride ourselves on those standards.
"Again I apologise for any offence caused and ask people to consider this statement as opposed to the various falsehoods and misinformation being circulated on social media.
"At this time I would like to stress that I continue to extend my full cooperation with the ongoing IHRB investigation.”
An IHRB tweet confirmed the matter is undergoing investigation.
A spokesman said the investigation is ongoing and will be dealt with as quickly as possible.