IHRB will follow due process as Gordon Elliott hit with interim British ban
Forthcoming Cheltenham festival ramps up pressure for hearing to take place over photograph
The British Horseracing Authority has banned Gordon Elliott from running horses in Britain pending the outcome of an investiagtion into a photograph showing him sitting on a dead horse on his gallops. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Irish racing’s regulator has insisted it will follow its own due processes in relation to Gordon Elliott and whether or not he has damaged the reputation of the sport.
It comes on the back of the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) decision on Monday to ban Elliott from having runners in Britain on an “interim” basis until authorities here have finished investigating a controversial photograph which shows the top trainer sitting on top of a dead horse on his gallops.
The image which emerged over the weekend has provoked a storm of controversy and led to calls for Elliott to be banned.
Elliott has profoundly apologised and is co-operating fully with the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s (IHRB) investigation which is likely to end up in a referrals hearing later this week although that hasn’t been confirmed.
Such a hearing could see one of racing’s most high-profile figures severely penalised, perhaps up to and including having his licence suspended. On Monday the IHRB said their investigation is ongoing.
However, with two weeks to the start of the Cheltenham festival the BHA has moved to not allow Elliott race horses in Britain while Irish authorities continue to investigate.
Elliott, who had a 122-1 four timer at Punchestown on Monday, would not normally expect to have many cross-channel runners prior to Cheltenham anyway.
However the BHA move is pointed in the context of the upcoming festival and comes on the back of “considering its own regulatory options” on the matter.
It increases the chances that one of Irish racing’s most high-profile figures could be forced to miss out on the sport’s biggest meeting of the year.
Sustained criticism of the Co Meath trainer has included demands for his licence to be suspended and the BHA has urged the IHRB to take swift action after saying it was “appalled” at the photo.
In a statement the BHA said it “will use powers under its own rules to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to race in Britain pending consideration of the outcome of the Irish investigation.
“The action taken by the BHA recognises that Mr Elliott is licensed in Ireland whose regulatory body, the IHRB, is carrying out its own investigation.
“However Mr Elliott has entered horses to race in Britain, from which point the British rules of racing apply to him.
“The decision to refuse to allow horses trained by Mr Elliott to run in Britain is therefore an interim decision which the BHA regards as proportionate in these circumstances.”
Crucially, with Cheltenham in mind, the BHA said owners of horses currently trained by Elliott are allowed transfer them to a different trainer and run them at a British meeting.
It is significant ramp up of pressure on the IHRB to act quickly although Ireland’s regulator didn’t alter its position on Monday.
An IHRB spokesman said: “As is the case with any investigation, processes are in place and have to be carried out. The will be carried out in this case and the investigation will be concluded as quickly as possible.
“The time of year or interest in other racing jurisdictions doesn’t prevent us from following our due processes.”
Elliott has over 100 horses entered for National Hunt racing’s biggest meeting of the season where he has been leading trainer twice before.
Should he ultimately be ruled out of participating at Cheltenham it would be provoke upheaval and uncertainty about star names such the unbeaten Envoi Allen and the dual-Grand National winner Tiger Roll.
It makes Elliott’s future, ahead of turning 43 on Tuesday, look uncertain.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has backed him despite calling the controversial image as “unacceptable”.
The English based Cheveley Park Stud, owner of Envoi Allen and other top Elliott trained stars such as Sire Gerhard, said they are “truly horrified and dismayed” by the photograph and are awaiting the outcome of the IHRB’s investigation.
The picture of Elliott sitting on a dead horse that had suffered a heart attack has prompted broad public criticism in Ireland and Horse Racing Ireland, the sport’s ruling body, described it as disturbing.
“This image does not reflect the care, attention and respect that racehorses receive and does a disservice to the thousands of people who look after their horses on a daily basis,” a HRI statement said.
It wouldn’t comment further on questions about whether or not racing’s image had been damaged by the incident, saying that from a disciplinary perspective it wouldn’t be a appropriate.
The focus is now on the IHRB and how quickly it proceeds.
Any referral hearing is likely to see Elliott liable for sanction under Rule 272(i) which relates to how someone within racing’s jurisdiction can be penalised if found to have acted in a manner “prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing”.