An investigation has been launched after Irish racehorse trainer Gordon Elliott was pictured sitting on a dead horse.
The photo has been met with public disapproval, with charity World Horse Welfare describing the picture as “abhorrent”.
Mr Elliott has published a public apology in response to the image which came to light after it was circulated on social media.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) is conducting an investigation and said the matter will be dealt with “as quickly as possible”.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has enforced a temporary ban on Mr Elliott from competing until the investigation is completed.
Who is Gordon Elliott?
Mr Elliott is a leading horse racing trainer who has won the Grand National three times, including twice with Tiger Roll in 2018 and 2019.
Aged 29, he became the youngest trainer to win the Grand National when his horse Silver Birch took the steeplechase field by storm in 2007.
He has a long list of winners, including 32 successes at the Cheltenham Festival, since becoming a trainer after retiring as a jockey in 2005.
As a rider he had two wins at Cheltenham, but it is his career as a trainer based in County Meath, in Ireland, which has brought Mr Elliott most success.
He has developed his own yard at Cullentra House “almost from scratch”, which now has a capacity to train almost 200 horses.
Why has Gordon Elliott made a public apology?
Mr Elliott has made an apology for a photo which showed the trainer sitting on a dead horse came to light on Twitter.
In his statement, Mr Elliott admitted the photo was real, that it was taken “some time ago” and that he did so “without thinking” while taking a phone call.
An investigation, conducted by the IHRB, is ongoing with a spokesperson saying it “will be dealt with as quickly as possible”.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) called it a “shocking picture”.
“We hope the Irish authorities will quickly confirm how this shocking picture originated,” said the BHA. “Respect for horses is a fundamental value of our sport, contrary to the impression in this picture. The IHRB have assured us that the investigation will be carried out as quickly as possible and that they will keep us informed as more information becomes available.”
The BHA later released a statement confirming Mr Elliott had been banned until the IHRB investigation was completed.
"The British Horseracing Authority will not allow the Irish trainer Gordon Elliott to race horses in Britain whilst the Irish authorities investigate an image that appeared on social media over the weekend,” the BHA statement read.
“The trainer admitted the photo was genuine and apologised for his actions.
“The BHA, which regulates racing in Britain, will use powers under its own rules to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to race in Britain pending consideration of the outcome of the Irish investigation.
“The action taken by the BHA recognises that Mr Elliott is licensed in Ireland, whose regulatory body, the IHRB, is carrying out its own investigation.
“However, Mr Elliott has entered horses to race in Britain, from which point the British rules of racing apply to him.
“The decision to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to run in Britain is therefore an interim decision which the BHA regards as proportionate in these circumstances.”
Charity, World Horse Welfare, said: “The photograph is abhorrent. We await the decision of the IHRB inquiry. We believe the trainer has apologised and an investigation is ongoing.”
Betfair has decided to end its relationship with Mr Elliott, who was an ambassador for the betting company, while acknowledging his “deep regret”.
Gordon Elliott’s statement in full
Mr Elliott published a statement on his Twitter account, which addressed the issue.
It read: “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.
“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 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.
“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.
“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.
“At this time, I would like to stress that I continue to extend my full cooperation with the ongoing IHRB investigation.”