IRISH RACEHORSE trainer Gordon Elliot has been banned from racing in Britain after a photo emerged of him sitting and seemingly posing on a dead horse.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) has launched an investigation after a shocking image began circulating on social media, showing Elliot smiling and sitting on a dead horse.
The high-profile trainer, who has previously served as an ambassador for Betfair but has since been dropped, released a statement apologising for his actions but insisted that the picture came about after he took a phone call while trying to move the deceased animal and sat down on the horse “without thinking”.
"The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops," he said in a statement.
"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. "
Despite the apology and attempted excuses, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has banned Elliot from sending runners to Britain until the IHRB investigation is completed-- meaning horses in Elliott's yard may not be able to compete in this year's Cheltenham Festival.
In a statement seen by The Guardian, the BHA confirmed they were using "powers under its own rules to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to race in Britain pending the outcome of the Irish investigation".
Elliott has since issued another apology in an interview with The Racing Post, where he acknowledged that "whether alive or dead, the horse was entitled to dignity".
The BHA will allow the trainer's horses to run if they are transferred to another trainer, and Elliott now faces losing some of his prized runners.
He described his actions as "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."
"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."
Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair and a prominent owner in Gordon Elliot's stable, had said he would continue to support the yard and Mr Elliot, however he has not commented since the trainer was banned by the BHA.