National winner penalised
Trainer Elliott banned over dead horse photo
Gordon Elliott celebrates after Tiger Roll’s second victory in the Grand National in 2019. It was his third victory in the race
Irish trainer Gordon Elliott, three-times winner of the Grand National, has been banned for 12 months after a photo emerged showing him sitting astride a dead horse.
Elliott was found guilty of bringing the sport into disrepute following a hearing held by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board. The last six months of the ban are suspended. Elliott has also been handed a €15,000 (£13,000) fine for the investigation.
The IHRB said the photo, in which he was sitting on the horse while speaking on his phone, showed “appalling bad taste” and a “complete absence of respect” for the animal.
The board added that the incident had caused serious damage to the reputation and integrity of horseracing.
Elliott trained Tiger Roll to two victories at Aintree but he will not be in Liverpool next month or the Cheltenham Festival later this month as the British Horseracing Authority is expected to reciprocate the IHRB sanctions.
In a statement, the 43-year-old said that he accepted the punishment and will not appeal against the verdict.
“I am in this situation by my own action and I am not going to dodge away from this,” he said.
“I was disrespectful to a dead horse, an animal that had been a loyal servant to me and was loved by my staff.
“I am 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.”
Elliott said that the photo was taken in 2019 on the gallops following the death of the horse Morgan and that he took a phone call and sat down on the horse “without thinking”.
The IHRB committee accused the trainer of “an extraordinary lack of judgement” in allowing the photo to be taken when he knew or ought to have known that the result might well end up in public.
It also said that that Elliott offered no credible explanation.
However, it added that the case was not one of cruelty to animals nor related to animal welfare and revealed that an unannounced stable inspection of Elliott’s yard this week led to no concerns about the horses in his care.
The committee further stated its belief that the publication of the photo was part of a “concerted attack upon Mr Elliott, the full circumstances of which are unknown”.
Elliott was 29 when his first Grand National entry, the 33/1 outsider Silver Birch, won the 2007 race.
In 2018 and 2019 he won the race with Tiger Roll, the first horse since Red Rum to win the race twice, and had already been withdrawn from this year’s race over the weight he would have to carry.
In 2018 Elliott also won the Irish Grand National, with General Principle. In 2017 and 2018, he was the top trainer at the Cheltenham Festival.