Horse trainer Gordon Elliott has been suspended for six months by the Irish horse racing authorities after being pictured sitting on a dead horse.
WARNING: LOWER DOWN IN THIS ARTICLE IS A PICTURE OF GORDON ELLIOTT SHOWING THE DEAD HORSE
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), suspended his training licence for 12 months, six of them suspended, on Friday and said he “acted in a manner which was prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation.
Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, of the IHRB referrals committee, said: “We consider that a suspension of Mr Elliott’s training licence is merited.
The committee, he said, felt the photograph shows the most “appalling bad taste” on the part of Mr Elliott insofar as it demonstrates a “complete absence of respect” for the horse at a time when he still remains in his charge.
“We believe that respect is an integral and essential part of the duty owing by those in charge of animals alive or dead.
Mr Justice Groarke said Mr Elliott was “heedless” to the fact that a horse in his charge had just died and was treating the animal as an object of amusement.
He acknowledged that the trainer has expressed what the panel believes to be a genuine remorse and accepts that he is unlikely to forget this episode in his life.
“It is undoubtedly and most regrettably the case that the reputation and integrity of horseracing has consequently been brought into disrepute and has been prejudiced and serious damage has been caused to a sport enjoyed and loved by so many.”
“In all of the circumstances of this case, to reflect the seriousness of the offence and the damage to the Irish racing industry, to deter other offences of this nature and having taken into account the mitigating factors we have heard we consider the period should be 12 months however the last six months of this will be suspended.”
By participating in the photograph, which has existed since 2019, the judge said he had shown “an extraordinary lack of judgment”.
But he admitted the publication of the photo was part of a “concerted attack” on Mr Elliott, the full circumstances of which are unknown.
Mr Elliott, 43, one of racing’s most high-profile personalities, said in a statement he had been dealt with fairly and thought he was “paying a very heavy price for my error but I have no complaints.
“It breaks my heart to see the hurt I have caused to my colleagues, family, friends and supporters. I have a long road ahead of me but I will serve my time and then build back better.”
He has apologised and said it was a “moment of madness” that was “disgraceful”, “horrific” and “wholly inappropriate and distasteful”.
After the picture was published, Mr Elliott apologised “profoundly” for “any offence that this photo has caused”, insisting that “the welfare of each and every horse under my care is paramount”.
The photo, he said “was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops.
He said he was waiting for the body of the animal to be taken away when he got a phone call and sat down on the horse without thinking.
The image shows him in a pose, holding two fingers out while sitting on the unnamed thoroughbred.
On Monday, the three-time Grand National-winning trainer was suspended from entering horses into races in Britain while Irish authorities finished their investigation.
Elliott, who has trained 32 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, where he has been the top trainer twice, will not compete in this year’s event, starting on 16 March.
His business has suffered financially since the picture emerged, with top owners Cheveley Park Stud moving their high-profile horses away from his yard and bookmakers Betfair ending their relationship with him.
In addition to the suspension, which will take effect from Tuesday, Elliott was also ordered to pay costs of 15,000 euros (£12,900).