'own fault' Gordon Elliott reflects on dead horse photo scandal that saw him banned from Irish horseracing board
"It was a moment of madness."
Gordon Elliot has reflected on the dead horse photo scandal that saw him banned from the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) for one year.
In 2021, an image surfaced online showing the 44-year-old sitting on the back of a dead horse while giving the camera a peace sign.
The horse, who died on the gallops of his stable in County Meath, was owned by Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary.
“I want to move forward now not back, but it was my own fault, my own stupidity,” he told Daily Mail.
“It was a moment of madness. I haven’t tried to hide from it but we are back now and it is good to be training winners.”
“I could understand the public reaction. I knew straight away when I saw the photograph it wasn’t good. I am a human being and I made a mistake.”
The uproar that followed the image led to Elliot not only being banned from the IHRB for a year, but he was also banned from having runners in Britain, and eight horses were promptly removed from his stables in Longwood.
“There is not a day when it does not come into my head. It’s something that I’m going to have to live with for the rest of my life,” he said.
He admitted that the worst part of the scandal was that he let his community down.
“I never realised how in the limelight I was until this happened. I just thought I was a normal person.
“As tough as it was for me, my parents are normal people and they have never experienced anything like this in their lives.
“For the whole family and the village here, it was awful.”
“I let everyone down. my staff, my family, my owners,” he added.
“On the Tuesday (after the picture circulated) when I saw horses leaving the yard, it was rough to see lads and lasses bawling and crying. They adored those horses, minded them like kids.”
Elliot said that while he was knocked by what happened, he had some very good friends around him that didn’t leave his side after the incident, including Micheal O’Leary’s brother Eddie.
“It is something I haven't really spoken about because I don’t want to get too deep or morbid, but it did rattle me.”
“I went from being someone who was self-made with a yard of horses and owners to maybe losing it all in hours.”
The shamed trainer was forced to watch the most important festivals on the racing calendar, Cheltenham, from afar in 2021.
“I watched every race. I watched the first day at home with Davy Russell and Jamie Codd, I went to Eddie O’Leary’s house the second day, back to my own house on the Thursday and Noel Meade’s house on the Friday,” he said.
“It was hard but I was so proud of the job my whole team did.”
“We got messages and letters from people at Cheltenham who said they had behaved brilliantly and the job they did was unbelievable,” he said.
“When Black Tears crossed the line in the Mares’ Hurdle, she would have been my first winner on Tuesday, I had tears in my eyes.
“I was so happy for the owners and Denise, who was almost like a mother to all the staff. When Tiger Roll won I cried. I was watching with friends. I was happy but sad.”
Back on form, 55 horses will compete in this year’s Cheltenham festival, all trained by Elliot.
The festival will run from March 15th to 18th.
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