Dead horse in Gordon Elliott photograph was owned by Michael O’Leary
Trainer admits he will spend the rest of his life regretting the error he made
Trainer Gordon Elliott has said he will spend the rest of his life paying for a moment of madness. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
The dead horse at the centre of the Gordon Elliott photograph controversy was the Michael O’Leary-owned Morgan.
Winner of four of his 21 starts the seven-year-old gelding died of an aneurysm on Elliott’s gallops in 2019.
The remains of Morgan, who raced in O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud colours, were waiting to be collected when Elliott was photographed sitting on the horse.
Elliott confirmed the identity of the animal to the Racing Post on Monday night in an exclusive interview where he described the incident that has prompted a colossal public reaction as an “indefensible moment of madness”.
The Co Meath trainer has been banned by the British Horseracing Authority from running horses in Britain while an investigation into the matter by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board continues.
With just two weeks to the start of the Cheltenham festival, Elliott is facing the possibility of being unable to compete at jump racing’s biggest meeting of the year.
He said on Monday that he will spend the rest of his life regretting the error he made.
“It is indefensible. Whether alive or dead, the horse was entitled to dignity,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Elliott reported that he became aware of the image circulating on social media while he was racing at Fairyhouse on Saturday.
“I received a phone call after the second-last race at Fairyhouse on Saturday telling me about the image that had appeared on social media.
“My initial reaction was that it couldn’t possibly have been me but then the picture was sent to me and I realised it was. It was a few years ago.
“There were a lot of people telling me to say it was photoshopped, but the one thing I’ve always been told in life is that if you start telling lies you will end up telling lies for the rest of your life,” he reported.
“I instantly realised the magnitude of the situation and thought about all I had worked so hard for.
“I bought my yard nine years ago and the day I bought it I didn’t even have the deposit to pay for it. I have worked so hard to get to where I am today.
“My heart goes out to all my staff. I know how hard they work. 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,” he said.
Morgan first ran for Elliott in October of 2016 when successful in a bumper at Cork. His last race was at Wexford in June of 2019 where he finished fourth in a chase .