The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) says it is “appalled” by an image of Irish trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse and is considering its own regulatory options while Irish racing authorities investigate the matter.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) launched an investigation on Sunday, which Elliott said he is in “full cooperation” with, after the picture circulated on social media over the weekend. Elliott has said he wishes to “apologise profoundly” for the image.
In its own statement on Monday, the BHA said: “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 unequivocally 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.”
Gigginstown House Stud, one of Ireland’s leading owners groups, has said it will continue to support Elliott, describing the trainer’s actions as a “grievous but momentary lapse of judgement”.
Elliott has been dropped as an ambassador by Betfair, while Cheveley Park Stud, who have Cheltenham Festival favourite Envoi Allen among their horses in training with Elliott, have said they will wait for the outcome of the IRHB’s investigation before making any decisions.
Michael O’Leary, who campaigns his horses under the Gigginstown House Stud banner with brother Eddie, said in a statement: “Eddie and I were deeply disappointed by the unacceptable photo which appeared on social media over the weekend.
“The care and welfare of all our horses 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 the photograph was a grievous but momentary lapse of judgement from 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 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.”
Fitzgerald ’emotional’ during horse welfare discussion
Former Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald told Sky Sports Racing he was saddened by the image, during an emotional discussion about horse welfare.
“My initial reaction to it was: ‘I hope it’s a fake’,” Fitzgerald said. “When I read that statement [from Elliott], I can’t help but feel anything else but feel so sad.
“The number one thing that we have to get out to everybody is how much we care about these horses. It’s so important.
“At the heart of this [the racing industry] are people who love these animals. It’s making me quite emotional because these horses have given me a life that I’m privileged to have.
“I’ve been in situations where horses I look after and ridden have unfortunately paid the ultimate sacrifice in our sport and the care and attention they get right until the very end is so important.
“We want to celebrate them [the horses]. We have nothing but the interest of these animals at heart.”