Gordon Elliott will face a Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board hearing on Friday in relation to the controversial photograph which emerged in recent days, but his career as a trainer has today been hit with a seismic blow following confirmation that Cheveley Park Stud will move their horses to the yards of trainers Willie Mullins and Henry de Bromhead.
The IRHB have moved to convene the hearing of their referrals committee for the end of this week but it is not yet clear when a decision will be announced.
However, the loss of stable stars Envoi Allen, Sir Gerhard and Quilixios to fellow Irish trainers was announced at lunchtime today.
Cheveley Park confirmed that Envoi Allen, favourite for the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, will move to De Bromhead’s yard, along with Quilixios, while Sir Gerhard is heading to a new home with Mullins.
Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown, have communicated their intention to attend the hearing alongside Elliott, who may see his licence to train suspended or even revoked.
Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers has said that Elliott must be “held fully accountable for his actions” and that the photograph of the trainer astride a dead horse showed “a complete and profound error of judgement.
Chambers told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that he was “shocked, appalled and horrified” by the image of Elliot sitting on the body of the gelding Morgan in 2019, calling it “really disturbing from an animal welfare perspective”.
While Elliott has sought to explain his actions by saying he sat down after receiving a phone call, Chambers said that in his opinion “Everything that has been said so far doesn’t explain what everybody saw.”
Chambers noted that an IHRB investigation was ongoing and added: “Consequences are important and he needs to be held fully accountable.
“Everything should be on the table. Ireland has to set a high bar when it comes to animal standards.”
Elliott has two runners at Gowran Park today and, while the British Horseracing Authority have suspended him from racing in Britain pending the outcome of the IHRB investigation, he is free to saddle horses in Ireland.
Former national hunt jockey Paul Carberry told the RTÉ News at One that the photo is “blown out of proportion”.
He said: “It is sad that the pictures got out. I have ridden for Gordon Elliott for a lot of years, my last few years.
“He does love his horses and it is a pity what it happening. I think it is blown out of proportion a bit now. It is very sad what has come out of it, but I don’t think he meant it at the time. It’s one of these silly little mistakes that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
“It is very sad for him because he is a good man and he has a lot of staff there to think about as well.”
Asked whether the photo of Elliott on a dead horse showed an unknown side of the horse industry, Carberry said: “No, that doesn’t really happen that often. Everyone knows how much that everybody cares for their horses and that is one thing they do, they do respect the horses.”
RTÉ racing analyst Jane Mangan said that such a high-profile trainer being pictured in this manner had damaged racing’s reputation.
“Our industry is built on a respect and a love for the animal,” she told RTÉ Sport.
“This horse deserved his dignity and that was stripped of him in this image. It was an indefensible act and I think Gordon Elliott has admitted that.
“It is not only destroying his own reputation but what infuriates me is that it brings into jeopardy the integrity of the industry, the sport that employs so many people in Ireland.
“It does not fairly reflect how these majestic animals are cared for throughout the country. So many people in Gordon Elliott’s yard care for these horses so brilliantly and this image undermines all of that.
“If ever an image has spoken a thousand words it’s this one.”
Mangan added that Elliott wouldn’t have enjoyed the success he has had if he hadn’t treated his horses well and that the image instead reflected “an idiotic moment he is going to regret for the rest of his life”.
“They could have at least waited until the IHRB had concluded their investigation, which I imagine will happen in the coming days”
Elliott could be banned from Cheltenham in two weeks after the British Horseracing Authority announced a provisional suspension pending the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s hearing outcome on Friday.
“To my mind, this interim ban suggest they (the BHA) are not happy that the IHRB permitted Gordon Elliott to have runners at Punchestown yesterday,” said Mangan.
“He has three at Gowran Park today.
“He has no horses entered (in the UK) in the coming days (so) I didn’t think there was any need for the BHA to step in. It isn’t in their jurisdiction. They could have at least waited until the IHRB had concluded their investigation, which I imagine will happen in the coming days.
“I think it was a little bit inappropriate and certainly undermines the work of the IHRB.”