Disturbing news from Europe as a photo of leading National Hunt trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse while on the phone, smirking, flashing two fingers, like a peace sign, or perhaps, victory, has circulated on social media.
Yeah, there’s a sentence I never thought I would type. I’ve seen the photo, it’s as ugly, barbaric, abhorrent, disgusting as you would expect. And, no, it’s not photoshopped. And, no, it’s not excusable. And, no, I’m not surprised.
Elliott’s boorish behavior has been on display at Far Hills, Saratoga, Iroquois. I interviewed him after winning our biggest race and he suffered through two questions and said, “We done?” Then he went and caroused with his friends, his owners, his enablers. It was disrespectful to the sport. Joe tried to interview him at Saratoga and it was worse.
His enablers have enabled this. His sycophants have condoned this. Win and behavior is excused. Win and a lack of respect, decency, is construed as idiosyncratic, a style, a personality. Win and people laugh at your jokes. Win and everything is forgiven. We see it here every day, in racing, in sports, in politics, in life.
Elliott offered a statement – a pitiful, pathetic attempt at shifting blame and skirting the responsibility. Like it was a lapse in judgement, a momentary mistake.
The Racing Post published the statement.
"I would like to address the speculation and rumours that have been rife since an old photo of me began circulating on social media yesterday afternoon.
"Firstly, I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused and can 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.
"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.
"At what was a sad time, which it is when any horse under my care passes away, my initial reaction was to get the body removed from where it was positioned.
"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. Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished.
"Such background information may seem trivial at this time and will not allay the concerns of many people both within and outside the world of horse racing.
"However, I feel it is important to provide people with some context surrounding this photo. To the racing community, to anyone who has worked with and loves horses and to anyone offended by this image I cannot apologise enough.
"Horse welfare and the care and attention to detail involved is absolutely at the core of everything we do here and both myself and all of my team pride ourselves on those standards.
"Again I apologise for any offence caused and ask people to consider this statement as opposed to the various falsehoods and misinformation being circulated on social media.
"At this time I would like to stress that I continue to extend my full cooperation with the ongoing IHRB investigation."
Pitiful and pathetic, right? And a lot of other words.
But, what’s next? Will he lose his license? Will he be banned? Will his enablers be punished, penalized? Remember, someone took the photo. Took the deplorable photo and found it funny then and would still think it’s funny now, except for those damn ramifications.
The thief is sorry he got caught, not that he stole.
Gigginstown House Stud’s Michael and Eddie O’Leary, one of Elliott’s biggest owners, offered their own statement, again, released by The Racing Post.
It reads, in part:
"Eddie and I were deeply disappointed by the unacceptable photo which appeared on social media over the weekend. The care and welfare of all our animals comes first with all our trainers.”
In the same statement, Gigginstown said they will continue to support Elliott. So, the photo of a man sitting on a dead horse is unacceptable. But the man is acceptable.
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