Leading racehorse trainer Gordon Elliott has apologised “profoundly” after a picture was posted on social media of him sitting on a dead horse.
The image, taken “some time ago”, shows Elliott sitting on the animal, which had died of an apparent heart attack. He explained that he was distracted by a phone call when waiting for the horse to be removed from the gallops, the Racing Post reports.
Based at Cullentra House Stables in County Meath, Ireland, the 43-year-old is a Grand National, Gold Cup and Royal Ascot-winning trainer. This season he has trained more than 140 winners and is second to Willie Mullins in the Irish trainers’ championship, the BBC says.
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“I would like to address the speculation and rumours that have been rife since an old photo of me began circulating on social media,” Elliott said 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 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.”
Investigation is launched
After the picture was shared widely on Twitter, an investigation was launched by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), Sky News reports. Elliott said he will be “cooperating fully” with the investigation.
British Horseracing Authority (BHA) called the image “shocking” and said that officials are in contact with its Irish counterparts, the BBC reports. The World Horse Welfare charity said the photo “looks abhorrent”.
“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.”
Betfair cuts ties
Bookmaker Betfair has also confirmed that its association with Elliott has been terminated.
“While we recognise that Gordon deeply regrets and apologised unreservedly for his poor judgement his actions are completely at odds with the values of the Betfair brand and that of our employees,” a statement said.
“With that in mind, we have decided to discontinue our association with Gordon with immediate effect.”
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