BHA calls for quick probe into trainer 'sitting on dead horse'

BHA call on Irish counterparts to quickly reveal the truth behind ‘shocking picture’ which shows Grand National-winning trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse

  • The British Horseracing Authority is not in a position to punish Gordon Elliott
  • The successful trainer falls under the jurisdiction of the Irish authorities
  • Elliott is cooperating with the Irish investigation after the photo appeared online
  • It appears to show Elliott sitting on a dead horse as he makes a ‘peace’ gesture  
  • Elliott’s stock rose sharply after the Grand National victories of Tiger Roll

The British Horseracing Authority have called on their Irish counterparts to quickly reveal the truth behind the ‘shocking picture’ shared on social media of trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse.

The authenticity of the image had still not been confirmed on Sunday night after the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board pledged to investigate.

Grand National-winning trainer Elliott, 42, does not fall under the jurisdiction of the British authorities as he is based and licensed in Ireland. 

Gordon Elliott is in hot water over a photo apparently showing him sitting on a dead horse

Elliott is being investigated by the Irish authorities after the image was posted on social media

The 42-year-old has trained 147 winners this season – but could be suspended from the sport

But the strongly-worded BHA statement was a recognition that the picture could damage the sport’s reputation as much as Elliott’s and undermine initiatives on equine welfare with the Cheltenham Festival only two weeks away.

A BHA spokesperson said: ‘We hope the Irish authorities will quickly confirm how this shocking picture originated.

‘Respect for horses is a fundamental value of our sport, contrary to the impression in this picture. 

‘The IHRB have assured us that the investigation will be carried out as quickly as possible and that they will keep us informed as more information becomes available.’

The picture was posted on social media on Saturday evening, with Elliott releasing a statement on Twitter which said: ‘I’m aware of a photo in circulation on social media.

‘The IHRB have been in contact with me regarding this photo and I will be cooperating fully with their investigation.’ 

There was no further comment from Elliott yesterday or clarification on the authenticity of the picture amid suggestions it may have been digitally altered.

But one prominent racing figure, speaking to Racemail on the condition of anonymity, voiced fears that the episode could develop into ‘one of the biggest PR disasters racing has ever faced’.

The picture shows Elliott astride a clearly dead horse while holding a mobile phone in one hand and delivering a two-finger peace gesture with the other.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup starts on March 19 and Elliott has tasted considerable success there

As a trainer licensed in Ireland, Elliott, who has trained 147 winners this season, could face a disrepute charge which carries penalties ranging from a fine to a suspension.

IHRB chief executive Denis Egan has said the matter will be dealt with ‘very quickly’ and a spokesman for the IHRB added: ‘I can’t put a time line on it but the investigation is ongoing and will be dealt with as quickly as possible.’ 

The timing could not be worse given the proximity of Cheltenham. Elliott trained seven winners there last year to take his career tally to 32.

He has a clutch of favourites again this month, including the unbeaten dual Festival winner Envoi Allen, owned by the British-based Cheveley Park Stud, who is hot favourite in the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

Elliott’s stock has soared thanks to Tiger Roll’s successive victories at the Grand National

Elliott was the youngest person to train a Grand National winner when, aged 29, he won the race in 2007 with Silver Birch. 

He has since seen his profile rise thanks to his training of Tiger Roll, winner of the race on the last two occasions it has been run. 

Those exploits have made the gelding arguably the best-known jumps horse in Britain since the legendary Red Rum in the 1970s.

Tiger Roll, who like many of Elliott’s horses runs in the colours of the Gigginstown Stud of Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary, is chasing his fifth Festival win. 

He could then run again at Aintree and, along with Elliott, would have been expected to be centre stage in the most watched jumps race of year.

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