Cheveley Park Stud move their horses away from Gordon Elliott’s yard

Trainer will learn if he faces a ban from the sport on Friday

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has announced it will convene on Friday to “hear evidence and consider an investigation relating to Mr Gordon Elliott”. Photograph: PA

Gordon Elliott is set to find out on Friday if he will be banned over the controversial photograph of him sitting on top of a dead racehorse.

The reverberations from the image, which has provoked huge public criticism, continued on Tuesday when the unbeaten star Envoi Allen was removed from Elliott’s yard by owners, Cheveley Park Stud.

With just two weeks to the start of the Cheltenham festival Envoi Allen is now in the care of Henry de Bromhead.

Cheveley Park took away all eight horses they had with Elliott – on the day he turned 43 – and divided them between De Bromhead and Willie Mullins.


The latter has charge of the Champion Bumper hope Sir Gerhard, rated the main danger by bookmakers to Mullins’s favourite for the race, Kilcruit.

As well as Envoi Allen, unbeaten in 11 starts and hot favourite for the Marsh Chase at Cheltenham, De Bromhead is getting the Grade One winning stars, Ballyadam and Quilixios. The latter is one of the favourites for the Triumph Hurdle.

The Cheveley Park director Richard Thompson said the decision was taken to disassociate the stud from Elliott and "do the right thing" by the industry.

“We had to consider what was happening [on Monday] with the building story and the backdrop of Cheveley’s reputation in terms of maybe the most important British owned racing and breeding operation in the UK,” he commented.

“It’s obviously very disappointing and extremely upsetting for the industry. People love horses and we, as a family, purchased Cheveley Park in 1975, so we’ve been racing and breeding for coming up to 46 years.

“I don’t know what the implications are longer term. I’m not close enough to the centre of the politics of racing and how it works between Britain and Ireland.

“All I know is, with my Cheveley Park Stud hat on, we had to take a decision as a board of directors to disassociate ourselves with Gordon at this time and do the right thing by the stud and by the industry.

“Obviously for Gordon, it’s a terrible time for him, but he’s made a terrible error of judgment, which he admits,” Richardson added.

He also said he hoped changes to the horse’s routines and circumstances less than two weeks before travelling to Cheltenham will be minimal.

It is a huge blow to Elliott who has profoundly apologised for the photo which was taken in 2019.

With the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) having already imposed an interim ban on him having runners in Britain, all eyes will be on the outcome of a referrals panel hearing due to take place this Friday where it will examine if Elliott has damaged the reputation of racing.

The members of the panel, and what time they sit at, has yet to be decided and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) wouldn’t comment further beyond saying their investigation into the case has finished.

It also declined to comment on criticism that holding the hearing on Friday prolonged a matter which the BHA had urged them to resolve as swiftly as possible.

A sport already reeling from one contentious image took one more body blow on Tuesday when video emerged on social media of amateur jockey Rob James climbing on to the back of another dead racehorse.

James, who rode the Elliott-trained and Michael O’Leary-owned Milan Native to success at last year’s Cheltenham festival, quickly apologised for his “stupidity” in an incident that reportedly took place in April of 2016 when the horse died of a heart attack when exercising.

In the video James briefly climbs on the back of the dead animal while other people in the background can be heard laughing.

The IHRB announced it has started a new investigation and that it will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

James told the trade paper, the Irish Field: “To try defending my stupidity at the time would add further insult and hurt to the many loyal people that have supported me during my career.

“I have caused embarrassment to my employers, my family, and most importantly the sport I love. I am heartbroken by the damage I have caused and will do my best to try and make amends to those hurt by my conduct.”

The impact on racing’s reputation of the Elliott photograph in particular has been immense and the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (IRTA) stated on Tuesday that he had let down the sector.

A statement said the body “utterly condemns the image that emerged over the weekend. As one of our most prominent and successful members, Gordon has a duty of care to his horses and this great sport but has let down both himself and horseracing.

“However we acknowledge his apology and recognise what is a very difficult time for him both professionally and personally.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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