Gordon Elliott: Disgraced Grand National-winning trainer banned for 12 months

Gordon Elliott has been banned from training for 12 months as punishment for the shocking picture of him sat on a dead horse.

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) held a disciplinary hearing into the matter on Friday following the emergence of the grotesque image on social media last weekend.

Elliott, who has won the Grand National three times as a trainer, had been ‘co-operating fully’ with the investigation, and the 43-year-old is not expected to drag out the case any longer by lodging an appeal.

Trainer Gordon Elliott has been punished after photo emerged of him sat on a dead horse

Trainer Gordon Elliott has been punished after photo emerged of him sat on a dead horse

A statement by the IHRB read: ‘We consider that a suspension of Mr Elliott’s training licence is merited. 

‘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.’ 

As well as his ban, which will see the second six months suspended, Elliott has also been slapped with a €15,000 (£13,000) fine for the investigation. 

‘I accept my situation and my sanction and am satisfied with my engagement with the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board. It is not an easy job to sit on the panel but I was dealt with fairly,’ a statement from Elliott following the verdict read.

‘I am in this situation by my own action and I am not going to dodge away from this. With my position in the sport I have great privileges and great responsibility. I did not live up to that responsibility. I am no longer the teenage boy who first rode a horse at Tony Martin’s 30 years ago. I am an adult with obligations and a position in a sport I have loved since I first saw horses race.

‘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.

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) held a disciplinary hearing into Elliott's actions

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) held a disciplinary hearing into Elliott’s actions

‘Horses are my life. I love them. No one comes into racing for money – it is a hard way to make a living. We are here because we love the horses. Anyone who has visited my stables at Cullentra will see the meticulous care with which we treat our horses. 

‘I was disrespectful to a dead horse, an animal that had been a loyal servant to me and was loved by my staff. I will carry the burden of my transgressions for the rest of my career. I will never again disrespect a horse living or dead and I will not tolerate it in others.

‘Finally I want to thank my owners and my staff who, despite being let down by me, have been unstinting in their support. I will vindicate their faith in me.’ 

In coming to the decision for the 12-month sanction, the IHRB explained the reasoning. 

The report read: ‘Mr Elliott has expressed what we believe to be a genuine remorse and accepts that he is unlikely to forget this episode in his life. We believe that he genuinely accepts that he was extraordinarily foolish to participate in the way he did.

‘Mr Elliott fully co-operated with the investigated carried out by IHRB, he put his hands up at the earliest opportunity and fully accepted that his actions had offended many people; that what he did was wrong and unforgiveable and indefensible.’

The decision leaves a conundrum for the owners that currently have horses in Elliott’s care. 

His biggest backers, Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud, stood by Elliott following his apology this week but they now have a decision to make on who trains their star-studded crop.

Dual National winner Tiger Roll is one of their leading thoroughbreds and, although the 11-year-old was withdrawn from the world famous steeplechase earlier this week, is entered to run at the Cheltenham Festival.

Sportsmail reported this week that Elliott’s horses could run at the prestigious Festival under a caretaker.

Elliott's main backer, Michael O'Leary's (right) Gigginstown Stud, stood by Elliott after apology

Elliott’s main backer, Michael O’Leary’s (right) Gigginstown Stud, stood by Elliott after apology

Someone new at the helm would allow owners who keep their horses at Elliott’s County Meath base to have their entries run at Cheltenham, which starts a week on Tuesday.

It could also mean some form of the business will still exist for Elliott to return to after he has served his punishment. Around 80 staff work for him and there is rising sympathy and concern for their situation as innocent victims of the furore.

Leading owners Cheveley Park Stud moved their eight horses, including dual Cheltenham Festival winner Envoi Allen, from Elliott’s stable on Tuesday as the outrage over the picture of Elliott sitting astride a dead horse continued. The horse in the picture was Morgan, who died in 2019.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) had already enforced a ban on Elliott from entering any horses into British races while the Irish authorities investigated his actions.

Owners Cheveley Park Stud moved all eight horses, including the unbeaten Envoi Allen (above), in Gordon Elliott's care to other trainers

Owners Cheveley Park Stud moved all eight horses, including the unbeaten Envoi Allen (above), in Gordon Elliott’s care to other trainers

However the BHA confirmed that owners could run their horses in this country if they were moved to other stables. 

Other owners with horses in the stable were understood to be waiting until the conclusion of the IHRB investigation to decide what steps they’ll take.

Elliott received support this week from owner Philip Reynolds, who has eight horses at the stable, including talented chaser Presenting Percy. 

The trainer’s initial explanation that he had inadvertently sat down on the dead horse to take the phone call merely fanned the flames of the outrage, despite his apology.

Speaking on Sunday, Elliott said the photo dated back to ‘some time ago’ and denied suggestions his actions had been ‘callous’, stressing that he was caught off-guard after receiving a phone call.

‘I would like to address the speculation and rumours that have been rife since an old photo of me began circulating on social media yesterday afternoon,’ he wrote in a statement.

‘Firstly, I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused and 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 here at Cullentra.

The picture shook the racing world with the Cheltenham Festival less than two weeks away

The picture shook the racing world with the Cheltenham Festival less than two weeks away


Age: 43

Trains: County Meath

Best Irish season: 210 winners (2017-18)

Cheltenham Festival Winners: 32


 Grand Nationals: 3x wins (Silver Birch – 2007, Tiger Roll – 2018, 2019)

Cheltenham Gold Cup: Don Cossack  (2016)

Irish Gold Cup: Delta Work (2020)

Irish Champion Hurdle: Apple’s Jade (2019) 


‘The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops. I appreciate that an initial viewing of this photo suggests it is a callous and staged photo but nothing could be further from the truth.

‘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.’

Elliott hit out at ‘falsehoods and misinformation’ around the picture on social media but said he put horse welfare first and would continue to co-operate with the investigation.

‘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,’ he added.

‘However, I feel it is important to provide people with some context surrounding this photo. To the racing community, to anyone who has worked with and loves horses and to anyone offended by this image I cannot apologise enough.

‘Horse welfare and the care and attention to detail involved is absolutely at the core of everything we do here and both myself and all of my team pride ourselves on those standards.

‘Again I apologise for any offence caused and ask people to consider this statement as opposed to the various falsehoods and misinformation being circulated on social media.’

Betting firm Betfair were the first to act on Monday, removing Elliott as an ambassador and Elliott’s yard sponsor eCOMM Merchant Solutions moved to terminate their contract.

After the Elliott picture emerged, amateur jockey Rob James was forced to apologise for his ‘wholly inappropriate and disrespectful’ actions after a video of him sitting on a dead horse surfaced on social media. 

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