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backtrack Gordon Elliott apologises for controversial social media photo amid horse welfare outcry

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Trainer Gordon Elliott. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile...ABT

Trainer Gordon Elliott. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile...ABT

Trainer Gordon Elliott. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile...ABT

Gordon Elliott has issued an apology for the photo that emerged on social media on Saturday showed him sitting on a dead horse while also providing context around the controversial image.

The image showing Elliott sitting on a dead horse on the gallops while speaking on a phone and holding up two fingers in an apparent peace gesture has sparked uproar on various social media platforms.

It has also led to an investigation from the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Body (IHRB) and the Meath trainer has attempted to provide some background to the sequence of events which led to the picture.

In a a 348-word statement released tonight, the leading jumps trainer said: "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."

The Cullentra handler insisted that "horse welfare is absolutely at the core of everything we do" before once again highlighting that he will give his "full cooperation" to the IHRB regarding their investigations into the matter.

"To the racing community, to anyone who has worked with and loves horses and to anyone offended by this image I cannot apologise enough," the 42-year-old added.

"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."

Elliott is readying a star-studded team for the Cheltenham Festival later this month with the likes of Envoi Allen and Tiger Roll leading his charge, but the Gold Cup and Grand National-winning trainer now finds himself at the centre of a horse welfare scandal off the track.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) earlier welcomed the news that the IHRB would be swiftly dealing with the matter in the wake of the "shocking picture" and the judgement of the Irish racing regulator could have huge ramifications for Elliott.

"We hope the Irish authorities will quickly confirm how this shocking picture originated. Respect for horses is a fundamental value of our sport, contrary to the impression in this picture," a BHA statement said this afternoon.

"The IHRB have assured us that the investigation will be carried out as quickly as possible and that they will keep us informed as more information becomes available."

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