Gordon Elliott banned for one year with six months of the sentence suspended

Trainer Gordon Elliott has been banned for a year and fined €15,000 after he was found guilty of bringing racing into disrepute for sitting on a dead horse while taking a phone call in 2019. Six months of that sentence will be suspended. He has accepted his sanction and will not be appealing. 

The hearing took place at Naas racecourse on Friday morning and Elliott was punished under Rule 272(i), which relates to someone within racing's jurisdiction acting in a manner which is "prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing". 

It means there will be no runners in Elliott's name at this month's Cheltenham Festival.

Elliott said: "I accept my situation and my sanction and I 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."

The trainer added: "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.

"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."

The verdict on the case said: "The IHRB received an avalanche of complaints and the matter was rightly and fully scrutinised on the media."

The image of Elliott sitting on Morgan, who died from a heart aneurysm as a seven-year-old in 2019, first circulated on social media on Saturday and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board immediately launched an investigation into the photograph.

On Sunday night Elliott admitted that the image was not fake or photoshopped, while the following day he spoke exclusively to the Racing Post where he said: "It is indefensible. Whether alive or dead, the horse was entitled to dignity. A moment of madness that I am going to have to spend the rest of my life paying for and that my staff are suffering for. I will be punished, I fully understand that."

Elliott's punishment will mean that horses cannot run under his name until August. 

The trainer, who has sent out 1,838 career winners, lost his best horse on Tuesday. Envoi Allen, the unbeaten superstar who has won all 11 of his races including at the last two Cheltenham Festivals, was taken from the stable and sent to Henry de Bromhead to train as part of the Cheveley Park exodus from the stable.

Five horses in total were sent to De Bromhead while three others, including leading Weatherbys Champion Bumper hope Sir Gerhard, went to Willie Mullins.

Michael and Eddie O'Leary, Elliott's leading owners through their Gigginstown House Stud operation, gave their backing to Elliott on Monday despite being "deeply disappointed by the unacceptable photo."

Noel and Valerie Moran, who own JCB Triumph Hurdle favourite Zanahiyr and have eight other entries at the Cheltenham Festival, said on Wednesday that the horses they owned had not moved from Elliott to Noel Meade despite reports suggesting otherwise and that they would wait until the outcome of the hearing before making any decisions.

A suspension barring Elliott from having any runners in Britain was imposed by the BHA on Monday and this verdict means that Elliott will officially have no runners at the festival.