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Over the weekend a distressing photo appeared on social media showing racehorse trainer Gordon Elliot posing with a dead horse on the gallops. While at first it was unknown whether the image was genuine or fake, Elliott has since admitted to and apologised for the photo, going on to say he is working with the authorities to investigate it further.
Disgusting and foolish behaviour
Unsurprisingly, the news has been met with outrage across the racing industry. Not only does it show disrespect towards the horse in question, it raises questions about how he views the horses under his care. While I personally feel that it is a leap to say the horses in his care are mistreated or not well cared for, this behaviour does reinforce the stereotype of the racing industry viewing horses as product or machines.
His foolish behaviour in posing for this photo has not only marked his own name for good, but has also thrown a shadow over the rest of the racing industry. The general public already question how horses are viewed in the racing industry, his actions have tarred everyone in the industry with the same brush, which simply isn’t true.
This has led to many taking to social media to show the love and respect they have for the horses in their care. This is a post from Julie Camacho who trains my Tambourine Girl. This is what we need to see more of during this troubling time.
Interim Suspension in Britain
Last night it was announced that Gordon Elliott will not be able to have runners in Britain until the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has come to a conclusion in the investigation. With Cheltenham Festival just two weeks away, it raises a lot of questions of whether horses will be swapping trainers to make the festival or whether the IHRB will be able to reach a conclusion beforehand.
Not only is Cheltenham viewed by many as the highlight of the National Hunt season and the battle of the English and the Irish, it is also used as key preparation for horses headed to the Grand National festival at Aintree. Tiger Roll, two time Grand National winner who is currently aimed at the National usually runs in the Cheltenham Cross Country Chase in preparation. Being trained by Elliott there is now a big question mark over whether we will see him attempt his third win.
It has already been announced that Elliott will be able to transfer horses to another trainer to allow them to race in Britain. So hopefully we will still see some of the great horses he has at Cheltenham. But no changes have been announced yet.
UPDATE: Since writing this article it has been announced that Tiger Roll will not be running in the Grand National due to “unfair weight.”
The Correct Response
I feel that the BHA have responded well to the events in banning Elliott from having runner in Britain until more information is known. It not only punishes the behaviour, but also sends a strong message to the racing industry and the general public that disrespecting the horses what make our sport will not be tolerated. However, if the ban does stay in place for the Cheltenham Festival, it could be a very interesting few months of jump racing.
Since he has admitted to the photo being real, I am also interested to see what the outcome of the investigation is. Will he be allowed to continue training? Will his owners stick by him? What will his punishment be? As I am sure everyone will agree that this behaviour needs to be punished.