All systems go for participation of Foster-trained horses at Cheltenham

BHA satisfied with “clarity” over Elliott’s current role at Cullentra House yard

Regulatory agreement has been reached that ensures the participation of horses trained by Denise Foster at next week's Cheltenham festival.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has said it has been given "clarity" by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) over Gordon Elliott's role at his Cullentra House yard.

Last week Elliott had his licence withdrawn for a year by the IHRB – with half of it suspended – having damaged the reputation of racing due to a hugely controversial image of him sitting on a dead horse.

Prior to that the BHA had already banned Elliott from saddling runners at Cheltenham, and Foster has stepped in to assume the licence at Cullentra where Elliott is still allowed to live and work.


That provoked some speculation on the extent of his day-to-day role at the yard over the next six months.

The BHA's chief executive, Julie Harrington, then appeared to cast an element of doubt on the Cullentra team's involvement at the festival when she commented on waiting to see what "conditions" the IHRB was applying to Foster.

With the IHRB insistent there are no such extra conditions on her licence, the potential for a schism between the cross-channel bodies appeared to briefly flicker.

However, on Thursday a BHA spokesman said the "clarity" they had been seeking has been provided by comments from the IHRB's chief executive, Denis Egan, and that a line has been drawn under the matter.

Mental health

Egan had commented to the Racing Post in relation to Elliott assisting Foster: "I think the level of assistance would be the same as he'd assist Henry De Bromhead or Willie Mullins (who received horses taken away from Cullentra.)

“If they have any question about the horses I’m sure he’d be available to answer them.

“But in relation to the day-to-day training, Denise is responsible for everything that goes on up there and she’s given a commitment to that effect.”

Reference to the impact on Elliott's health of the controversy was heard at last week's referrals hearing. On Thursday a study examining the mental health of racehorse trainers in Ireland revealed almost one in two met the threshold of a common mental disorder. The study came from 124 individuals, or almost 30 per cent of trainers in the country.

The IHRB-funded study carried out by Lewis King, a PhD student at Waterford Institute of Technology, suggests CMD symptoms may be greater among trainers than other rural occupations such as farmers.

Prevalence rates of depression (41 per cent,) adverse alcohol use (38 per cent,) distress (26 per cent) and anxiety (18 per cent) were observed.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column