Gordon Elliott issues grovelling apology after dead horse photo

Champion trainer Gordon Elliott has issued another grovelling apology after a photograph surfaced of him sitting astride a dead horse.

The 43-year-old's reputation is in tatters as figures from across the world of horse racing and the wider public moved to condemn his actions in the abhorrent image.

He can be seen smiling to the camera in the photograph whilst on the phone and putting two fingers up in a 'peace' symbol.

Elliott – who trained Tiger Roll to successive Grand National wins – is now under investigation by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board and, as things stand, is banned from bringing any horses into the UK with just a fortnight to go until the Cheltenham Festival.

"It is indefensible. Whether alive or dead, the horse was entitled to dignity," Elliott told the Racing Post, in the second public apology he has made since the photo emerged.

"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. But it absolutely breaks my heart to read and hear people say that I have no respect for my horses.

"That couldn't be further from the truth.

"My whole life has revolved around horses since I was a child. I know nothing else. Horses are all I have. I came from nothing and built a dream.

"When your world starts crumbling in front of you, it's a scary place to be.

"I just hope people can understand how truly sorry I am and find some way to forgive me for what I have done."

The photograph began circulating on social media on Saturday, though many thought the image was a fake and had been doctored.

However, Elliott soon confessed the image, which he says was taken "a few years ago", was indeed genuine, and claimed the unidentified horse had suffered a heart attack not long before.

"My heart goes out to all my staff. I know how hard they work,' he said in his initial statement.

"I know that I have not only let them down but that I have let the whole racing industry down too.

"That is down to my stupidity and I am truly, truly sorry."

The British Horseracing Authority issued a statement of their own, urging their Irish counterparts to bring about a swift resolution to the scandal ahead of Cheltenham.

“We hope the Irish authorities will quickly confirm how this shocking picture originated,” a BHA spokesperson said.

“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.”

Elliott – who was born and is based in Co Meath, Ireland – has since been sacked by bookmakers Betfair from his role as official ambassador following the incident.

But RyanAir chief Michael O'Leary – who owns Tiger Roll and a number of other horses at Elliott's Gigginstown House Stud stable – has backed the trainer over his "momentary lapse of judgement", though did brand the photo "unacceptable".

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