Grand National winning trainer Gordon Elliott has apologised after a photo of himself sitting on a dead horse circulated on social media.
The Irishman, 43, said that he took a phone call and sat down on the horse “without thinking”.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has labelled it “a shocking image” and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) has started an investigation into the picture Elliott has claimed was taken “some time ago”.
Elliott maintained that the welfare of every horse was “paramount” in his response to the controversy, which comes just over two weeks out from Cheltenham Festival.
“I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused,” Elliott, who has won the Grand National three times, including twice with Tiger Roll, said in a statement.
“I can categorically state that the welfare of each and every horse under my care is paramount and has been central to the success that we have enjoyed.
“The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops.
“At what was a sad time, which it is when any horse under my care passes away, my initial reaction was to get the body removed from where it was positioned.
“I was standing over the horse waiting to help with the removal of the body, in the course of which, to my memory I received a call and, without thinking, I sat down to take it. Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished.
“Such background information may seem trivial at this time and will not allay the concerns of many people both within and outside the world of horse racing.”
An IHRB spokesman said on Sunday that the investigation will be “dealt with as quickly as possible.”