By Gerard Mulreaney (@gerardmulreaney)
The biggest story in the world of horse racing has finally a come to a conclusion, after Irish jumps trainer Gordon Elliott was given a 12-month suspension by the Irish Horse Regulatory Board (IHRB), with the final six months suspended, following the photo of him sitting on a deceased horse at his gallops.
Whilst this outcome won’t be to the satisfaction of everyone, the fact that Elliott will not be allowed to be involved in the biggest festivals in the game, most notable Cheltenham, Aintree, Fairyhouse and Punchestown, is huge. The loss of some top owners horses, with the possibility of further losses, plus the embarrassment he’ll have to carry throughout his career is punishment enough. The big question now is can he recover from this?
After building his career from nothing to become one of the biggest trainers in the game wasn’t easy, but he has an amazing talent for improving and getting the best out of his horses. Whether owners will trust him going forward is another thing.
As things stand, Gigginstown House Stud and Philip Reynolds have stood behind Elliott. Others will decide what to do now that this process with the IHRB has ended.
Elliott released a statement following the announcement of the suspension: “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.
“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.
“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.”
Speaking about the decision of the Referrals Committee, Denis Egan, CEO of the IHRB said: “Where breaches of rules occur and where participants in racing act in a manner that brings the sport into disrepute, there are no winners, and in fact, the loss is to Irish racing with damage to the reputation of the sport. Having acted with thoroughness and having followed due process at all times, the IHRB team are satisfied that the case has been dealt with fairly and appropriately.
“Our team who prepared the case worked tirelessly since the issue emerged just a few days ago and ensured their investigation, presented today and with the support of our legal team, was thorough, fair to the parties involved, and above all, focused on ensuring that the integrity and good reputation of the sport is upheld.”
Mr. Egan added: “Ireland and its racehorse trainers, riders, breeders and workers are held in high regard globally providing some of the very best horses and the very best racing talent.
“We recognise the heartfelt upset that this matter has caused to people inside and outside of racing, none more so than to the staff employed by Mr. Elliott. We also see at first hand both on the racecourse and as part of our stable inspection programme that horses receive unrivalled care, attention, and affection. Indeed, as part of the investigation into this verycase, an unannounced stable inspection of Mr. Elliott’s yard this week led to no concerns about the welfare of the horses in his care, as has been the case during any other inspection we carried out at his premises each year. In our opinion the incident covered in today’s hearing is not reflective of Irish racing.”