The photo of Gordon Elliott is being investigated by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board
The photo of Gordon Elliott is being investigated by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board
Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Leading Irish racehorse trainer Gordon Elliott has sparked fury well beyond the confines of the racing world after a photo emerged of him sitting on a dead horse while talking on his mobile phone.

Many initially appeared to believe the image – labelled “shocking” by the British Racehorse Authority – must have been photoshopped when it began to proliferate on social media over the weekend.

But the three-time Grand National winner confirmed it was real in a statement on Sunday night. He said: “The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops. I appreciate that an initial viewing of this photo suggests it is a callous and staged photo but nothing could be further from the truth.

“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,” Elliott added. “Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished.”

The 43-year-old, who is based in County Meath, “profoundly” apologised for any offence caused and said he could “categorically state that the welfare of each and every horse under my care is paramount and has been central to the success that we have enjoyed here at Cullentra”.

You can see his full statement and the offending image here:

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has launched an investigation into the image, to which Elliott said he is giving his “full cooperation”.

It comes a fortnight before the Cheltenham Festival is due to open on 16 March. More than 100 horses trained at Elliott’s Cullentra House stables are reportedly due to enter the competition – at which he was the top trainer in 2017 and 2018.

But pending an outcome that could see his licence suspended or revoked, many within the racing world reacted angrily to the photo.

His response also triggered an outpouring of memes and reactions.

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