Racing came under renewed attack from activists on Saturday as a change of hands at Gordon Elliott’s stable ensured the banned trainer’s horses would run at Cheltenham. Denise “Sneezy” Foster, 67, takes control at Cullentra House in Ireland as soon as disgraced Elliott begins a sRead More »
The IHRB also indicated, however, that there was a "sinister aspect" to the case, referring to a "concerted attack" on Elliott, "the full circumstances of which are unknown." The sanction will start on March 9 and Elliott said in a statement that he accepted the situation and had been dealt with fairly. Elliott had been barred from racing in Britain pending the Irish investigation and had already seen several top racehorses moved to other trainers.
Trainer Gordon Elliott suffered a further series of hammer blows on Tuesday, with a string of horses leaving his stable and Tiger Roll withdrawn from the Grand National and the chance to emulate Red Rum’s hat-trick of triumphs at Aintree. On another damaging day for horse racing following the shocking emergence of a photograph of Elliott sitting astride a dead horse, new developments were: A video of jockey Rob James also sitting astride a dead horse after it had suffered a heart attack. Leading owners Cheveley Park Stud decided to remove eight horses from Elliott’s care, including their unbeaten superstar Envoi Allen. Tiger Roll was withdrawn from the Grand National following a row over his Aintree handicap. The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board decided to refer Elliott to a hearing on Friday where he could face a disrepute charge. With less than two weeks until the start of the Cheltenham Festival, Elliott’s horses have already been suspended from competing in Britain by the British Horseracing Authority, pending the outcome of the IHRB’s inquiry and hearing. Although the owners of Tiger Roll, Michael and Eddie O’Leary, have not removed their horses from Elliott’s Cullentra House stables, they announced on Tuesday that their most famous horse would not run at the Grand National. They cited the “patently unfair” and “unwarranted” decision to mark him at 166, but expressed hope that he would still run at Cheltenham in the Cross Country race. Elliott, who is a three-time Grand National-winning trainer, had previously described the 11st 9lb allotted to Tiger Roll as “fair”. He won his first National off 150, his second off 159 and would have run off 170 had the race taken place last year. With the O’Learys still standing by Elliott, Cheveley Park acted on Tuesday morning by removing their eight horses. They said that they were “horrified and dismayed” by the photograph. Their horses will now be split between trainers Henry de Bromhead and Willie Mullins, with Envoi Allen joining De Bromhead ahead of the Festival, where he will be clear favourite for the Grade One Marsh Novices’ Chase, and Sir Gerhard moving to Mullins. “We have real professionals on the job to hopefully resolve this very quickly and for it to be very smooth – it is unfortunate timing,” said Cheveley Park’s director, Richard Thompson. “We had to consider what was happening with the building story and the backdrop of Cheveley’s reputation – in terms of maybe the most important British-owned racing and breeding operation in the UK. “We’ve been racing and breeding for coming up to 46 years. We had to take a decision as a board of directors to dissociate ourselves with Gordon at this time and do the right thing by the stud and by the industry.” When asked if there was a possibility of Cheveley Park having horses with Elliott again in the long term, Thompson added: “For the time being we’re moving the horses and that’s it. I explained to him [Elliott] that we had to do the right thing by Cheveley Park and the right thing by our standing in the industry and what people expect of us. “I’m not going to make a comment about long term, but certainly in the short to medium term these horses will stay with Henry and Willie.” Elliott trained the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack, as well as Grand National winners in 2007, 2018 and 2019, but his participation in both those forthcoming meetings is now in serious doubt. Although Elliott is licensed in Ireland, and so any disciplinary charge and potential sanction rests with the IHRB, the BHA has stressed its jurisdiction over his runners in British races. A proven charge of “bringing racing into disrepute” would carry sanctions ranging from a fine to a licence suspension. Elliott has apologised “profoundly” and said he sat on the horse after receiving a phone call. James, who rode a winner trained by Elliott at Cheltenham last year, has also apologised following the emergence of a separate video on social media which shows him sitting astride a dead horse beside a gallop, accompanied by laughter from onlookers. Describing his actions as “inappropriate and disrespectful”, James said the horse was a “lovely five-year-old mare, who unfortunately suffered a sudden cardiac arrest” while being exercised in April 2016. “To try defending my stupidity at the time would add further insult and hurt to the many loyal people that have supported me during my career,” he told The Irish Field. “I have caused embarrassment to my employers, my family and most importantly the sport I love. I am heartbroken by the damage I have caused and will do my best to try and make amends.” The horse racing industry was already reeling from the Elliott photograph and fears over the associated damage to the sport’s reputation. After releasing a statement on Sunday, Elliott gave a first interview since the photograph was published. “It is indefensible,” Elliott told the Racing Post. “Whether alive or dead, the horse was entitled to dignity. A moment of madness that I am going to have to spend the rest of my life paying for. “It absolutely breaks my heart to read and hear people say I have no respect for my horses. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Horses are all I have. “When your world starts crumbling in front of you, it’s a scary place to be. I just hope people can understand how truly sorry I am and find some way to forgive me for what I have done.”
The British Horseracing Authority have placed an immediate ban on horses trained by Gordon Elliott from competing in Britain, prompting huge questions for owners ahead of both the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National. Following an afternoon of meetings, the BHA decided to take unprecedented interim action while the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board conducts an investigation into the emergence of a “totally unacceptable” photograph of Elliott sitting astride a dead horse. Elliott, who trained the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack as well as Grand National winners in 2007, 2018 and 2019, has a string of favourites for Cheltenham and the chance with Tiger Roll to emulate Red Rum’s unprecedented Aintree treble. The Cheltenham Festival starts in exactly two weeks and Aintree will follow one month later, but Elliott’s participation in both those meetings now appears in considerable doubt. Although Elliott is licenced in Ireland, and so jurisdiction over any disciplinary charge and potential sanction rests with the IHRB, the BHA has stressed its jurisdiction over his runners in British races. And, having said that they were “appalled” by the photograph, which showed Elliott sat astride the horse while holding a mobile phone to his ear and making what appears to be a peace sign, they have now placed an interim ban on his horses.