Monday, we start with Gordon Elliott. Betfair has discontinued its association with Gordon Elliott over a photograph of the trainer sitting on a dead horse on the gallops. A Betfair spokesperson commented: "While we recognise that Gordon deeply regrets and apologised unreservedly for his poor judgement his actions are completely at odds with the values of the Betfair brand and that of our employees."With that in mind, we have decided to discontinue our association with Gordon with immediate effect."
Leading owner Michael O’Leary has announced he will continue to support Gordon Elliott despite the publication of an “unacceptable photo” of the Grand National-winning trainer on social media. The incident is already being investigated by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, but O’Leary has reaffirmed his support for Elliott.
In a statement, O’Leary said: “Eddie (O’Leary, brother and racing manager) 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 come first with all our trainers. Sadly, from time to time, our horses suffer injuries and/or fatalities and we expect all such cases to be treated with the care and attention they deserve.“We have always found that animal welfare comes first, second and third at Cullentra. From the facilities to the brilliant team of people led by Gordon, our horses are trained with no expense spared for their development, welfare and care.
“We accept that this photograph was a grievous but momentary lapse of judgement by Gordon, and not in keeping with our 15-year experience of his concern for and attention to the welfare of our horses.“We all make mistakes, and what is important is that we learn from them and ensure we do not repeat them. We accept Gordon’s sincere, profound and unreserved apology and we will continue to support him and his team at Cullentra, as they work to recover from this deeply regrettable incident.”
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has issued a statement this evening barring Gordon Elliott from having runners in Britain pending the conclusion of an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) investigation into the photograph of him sitting on a dead horse.
The statement is below:
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) will not allow the Irish trainer Gordon Elliott to race his horses in Britain whilst the Irish authorities investigate an image that appeared on social media over the weekend.
The trainer admitted the photo was genuine and apologised for his actions.
The BHA, which regulates racing in Britain, 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.
In a statement, the BHA said it was appalled by the image which undermined its values of respecting and caring for horses.
1. The BHA has acted under Rule I — 2.2 of the British Rules of Racing.
2. Owners for horses currently trained by Mr Elliott are permitted to transfer them to a different trainer and run them at a British meeting, providing they comply with the relevant rules.
On the track, at Punchestown Gordon Elliott was making the headlines again. Newcomer Mighty Potter marked himself out as a horse to follow when taking the bumper at Punchestown with an authoritative display. He gave Gordon Elliott four winners on the card following on from Black Tears (2/5f), Papal Lodge (4/5f) and Coach Carter (16/1). There was a good run for our friends at Hilltop for Wild Hunt who ran a race full of promise to finish second in the bumper.
At Plumpton, Josh and Gary Moore continued the excellent form when winning with Natural History. Plumpton officials voided the 2m maiden hurdle as the runners began the final circuit after Wudyastopasking was fatally injured. The jockeys were instructed to pull up as they were unable to pass the stricken horse. It was the first example of the revised stop-race procedure, which took effect in January, being carried out. "The procedure worked really well," said chief steward Richard Westropp. "Unfortunately the horse injured himself approaching a hurdle and then veered off to the bypassing area to the left of it."There was nowhere for the runners to go on the next circuit and you have to be aware of people attending to the horse – their safety is paramount. The clerk of the course and vet acted quickly and the flags worked well. All the jockeys followed the procedure to the letter." We all know the procedure and stopped," said Jamie Moore, rider of Dorking Lad. "It's unfortunate for connections of the injured horse. There will be another day for my lad. It's just one of those things."
At Ayr, there was a treble for Derek Fox with Slainte Mhor, Andrea Cross and Ahoy Senor. At Wolverhampton, Dancing King won by 9.5 lengths for Mark Johnston.
Tuesday, we start with Gordon Elliott. The Referrals Committee of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board is scheduled to convene on Friday 5th March to hear evidence and consider an investigation relating to Mr. Gordon Elliott. Cheveley Park Stud has removed all eight horses they have in training with Gordon Elliott, while the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has announced it will convene on Friday to hear the case related to the image of the Grand National-winning trainer sitting on a dead horse.
One of the most successful breeding and ownership operations in the sport, Cheveley Park are more renowned for their success on the Flat but have ramped up their interest in National Hunt racing in recent years and already enjoyed multiple winners at the Cheltenham Festival. The most notable is the brilliant Envoi Allen, arguably the most exciting horse in Elliott’s yard following back-to-back Festival wins in the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in his unbeaten career to date. However, with Elliott currently not be permitted to have runners in Britain until the conclusion of the IHRB investigation, Envoi Allen and several of his stable companions will be moved to Henry de Bromhead and Willie Mullins combined. Cheveley Park director Richard Thompson told Sky Sports Racing: “We’ve made a decision this morning to move the horses from Gordon’s yard. “We have eight horses (with Elliott) and they’ll go to Henry de Bromhead and Willie Mullins. That will be organised by Chris Richardson (Cheveley Park’s managing director) and the team. Logistics are in place and we’re organising it right now.”
Confirming plans for the team’s four Cheltenham Festival contenders, Thompson said Marsh Novices’ Chase favourite Envoi Allen will join De Bromhead, along with Supreme Novices’ Hurdle contender Ballyadam and possible Triumph Hurdle hope Quilixios. Sir Gerhard, who is set to put his unbeaten record on the line in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, will be trained by Mullins, who already houses the favourite for the race in Kilcruit. Thompson is hoping any effect to the horses’ training routines, with the Festival only a fortnight away, will be minimal. He added: “Hopefully, with trainers like Henry and Willie and the Cheveley team headed by Chris, we’ve got real professionals on the job to hopefully be able to resolve this very quickly.“It should be very smooth. That’s what we’re hoping for. It’s just very unfortunate timing, obviously.”Thompson feels Cheveley Park ultimately had little option but to move the horses to other yards to ensure their reputation remained intact.
He said: “We had to consider what was happening (on Monday) with the building story and the backdrop of Cheveley’s reputation — in terms of maybe the most important British-owned racing and breeding operation in the UK.“This reputation has been built up with various breeders and many people support us. We had to look at the situation in context of where Cheveley sit in the industry and our responsibility to the industry in Britain.“It’s obviously very disappointing and extremely upsetting for the industry.“People love horses and we, as a family, purchased Cheveley Park in 1975, so we’ve been racing and breeding for coming up to 46 years.
We had to make a decision as a board of directors to disassociate ourselves with Gordon at this time“I don’t know what the implications are longer term — I’m not close enough to the centre of the politics of racing and how it works between Britain and Ireland.“All I know is, with my Cheveley Park Stud hat on, we had to make a decision as a board of directors to disassociate ourselves with Gordon at this time and do the right thing by the stud and by the industry.”When asked if there was a possibility of Cheveley Park having horses with Elliott again in the long-term, Thompson added: “For the time being we’re moving the horses and that’s it. “Obviously for Gordon, it’s a terrible time for him, but he’s made a terrible error of judgement, which he admits.
“I explained to Gordon that we had to do the right thing by Cheveley Park and the right thing by our standing in the industry and what people expect of us.“I’m not going to make a comment about long-term, but certainly, in the short to medium term these horses will stay with Henry and Willie.”While plans remain uncertain in such a fast-moving situation, Thompson expects Jack Kennedy to keep the ride on Envoi Allen at Cheltenham. He said: “Envoi Allen has had Davy Russell and recently Jack Kennedy, and I personally would like to stick to continuity on retaining Davy and/or Jack, depending on injuries etc.“With Envoi in particular, we want to stick to the previous relationships.”
Finally off the track. Irish amateur jockey Rob James has apologised for his “wholly inappropriate and disrespectful” actions after a video of him sitting on a dead horse was posted on social media. The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has already announced an investigation into the footage, which was posted on Twitter on Monday night. James, who rode Milan Native to victory at the Cheltenham Festival last year, said he is “heartbroken by the damage” caused by the video, which was taken in 2016. He told the Irish Field: “I have become aware of a video circulating of me on social media.“I would just like to apologise for my actions which were wholly inappropriate and disrespectful to a lovely five-year-old mare, who unfortunately suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while at exercise earlier that morning, April 30, 2016.
“I sincerely apologise to the owners of the mare, the staff who cared for her, the horseracing industry and all followers of horse racing for my actions.“To try defending my stupidity at the time would add further insult and hurt to the many loyal people that have supported me during my career. I have caused embarrassment to my employers, my family and most importantly the sport I love.“I am heartbroken by the damage I have caused and will do my best to try and make amends to those hurt by my conduct.”
On the track, we start at Gowran. It was every bit as straightforward as most people would have anticipated for the 4/11 favourite Bachasson in the featured Red Mills Steeplechase (Grade 2) for Willie Mullins. There was a deserved win for Cedarwood Road over fences. It was good news for our members who got advised a 2.5pts win double (Bachasson 4/6 & Cedarwood Road 11/10). At Catterick, Stepney Causeway continued the golden run for the Skelton's. At Leicester, Don Herbager was on target for Venetia Williams. At Newcastle, Onesmoothoperator was on target for Jamie Spencer.
Wednesday, we start at Wincanton. There was a double Golden Emblem and Peltwell. At Musselburgh, there was a double with Skatman and Alcala. At Lingfield, Albert Camus for John Gosden. At Kempton, Hollie Doyle had 5 winners with Della Mare, Laos, Highland Avenue, Sir Titan and Madrinho. The win for Highland Avenue was good news for our members (2pts win) 5/6.
Thursday, we start at Clonmel there was a double for Danny Mullins with Cluan Dara and West Is Best. At Ludlow, One For You was on target for Phillip Hobbs. At Southwell, there was a double for Mark Johnston and Ben Curtis with Mr Excellency and Warne's Army. At Taunton, there were doubles for Phillip Hobbs and Richard Johnson with Ebony Gale and Luttrell Lad. At Chelmsford, Khuzaam took the feature race.
Friday, we start at Dundalk. A frustrating night for The Galaxy Horse Racing Syndicate. Casa Comigo was bitterly disappointing, despite being hampered early on in truth he ran no race possibly losing confidence after a fright. Casa Comigo has been going well at home however it did not translate to the track last night. Casa Comigo only beat one horse home the Gordon Elliott trained favourite. Casa Comigo is a horse who is a five-time winner in the UK. We need to try and get more from Casa Comigo. We will work on it with Leanne Breen and put a plan in place.
The second part of our night was equally frustrating however for different reasons. Fastman suffered a nightmare passage through the race. These things happen. The ball did not bounce for Siobhan, that is the sport in a nutshell. Siobhan does a lot for all our horses at John McConnells. Obviously, it is not ideal however we have to take it. On the bright side, Fastman battled courageously to try and get to the leaders. Fastman ran on very well for fifth. He has a lot of ability it is clear to see we will have our day in 2021 with Fastman.
There was a 66/1 surprise, provided by the Bill Durkan-trained and Siobhan Rutledge-ridden Fallen Forest. Last year’s winning owner and trainer, Scott Heider and Joseph O’Brien struck again in the Listed HOLLYWOODBETS Patton Stakes at Dundalk. Appropriately enough the 2021 winner, My Generation, is a half-sister to 2020 scorer, Crossfirehurricane. Half-an-hour on from his feature race success on My Generation, Shane Crosse doubled up at Dundalk on Major Power in the Hollywoodbets Racing & Sports Betting Handicap. My Generation was for Joseph O’Brien, but Crosse pulled on the silks of in-form owner/trainer Eddie Lynam for the spin on Major Power. After triumphing in this race last year too, Major Power did this from the front and eventually held Prisoner’s Dilemma by half a length.
The big story on Friday was Gordon Elliott has received a 12-month suspension of his trainer's licence with the last 6 months suspended. The trainer will also have to pay costs of €15,000.
Trainer Gordon Elliott issued the following statement this evening following the IHRB case which concluded earlier:
"I accept my situation and my sanction and am satisfied with my engagement with the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board. It is not an easy job to sit on the panel but I was dealt with fairly. I am in this situation by my own action and I am not going to dodge away from this. With my position in the sport I have great privileges and great responsibility. I did not live up to that responsibility. I am no longer a teenage bot who first rode a horse at Tony Martin's 30 years ago. I am an adult with obligations and a position in a sport I have loved since I first saw horses race. I am paying a very high price for my error but I have no complaints. It breaks my heart to see the hurt I have caused to my colleagues, family, friends and supporters. I have a long road ahead of me but I will serve my time and then build back better.
Horses are my life. I love them. No one comes into racing for money - Its a hard way to make a living. We are because we love horses. Anyone who has visited my stables at Cullentra will see the meticulous care with which we treat our horses. I was disrespectful to a dead horse, an animal that had been a loyal servant to me and was loved by my staff. I will carry the burden of my transgressions for the rest of my career. I will never again disrespect a horse living or dead and I not tolerate it in others. Finally, I want to thank my owners and my staff who, despite being let down by me, have been unstinting in their support. I will vindicate their faith in me.
The IHRB swift action is to be welcomed. The whole thing has been very bad for our sport. I think it is to be welcomed that Gordon Elliott has taken his punishment. I have no doubt Elliott will bounce back. I think we should hope now that this serves as a warning shot for our sport.
Saturday, we start at Kelso. Cloth Cap cemented his place as an ante-post favourite for the Randox Grand National with a dominant front-running display in the bet365 Premier Chase. This was an excellent performance in my view. Emmet Mullins sent out yet another big-race winner across the water when The Shunter won the valuable bet365 Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso. The eight-year-old gelding won the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, before reverting to fences to finish third in a handicap chase at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival. Switching back to the smaller obstacles for this £75,000 contest, the 5/2 favourite dug deep in the hands of Alain Cawley to see off Night Edition and Faivoir in a driving finish. Mullins was at Navan, where he completed an across-the-card double with Noble Yeats in a maiden hurdle.
Umbrigado’s dramatic triumph for David Pipe and David Noonan in the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury left owners John White and Anne Underhill dreaming of realising their long-held ambition of a winner at the Cheltenham Festival. Hitman has his sights set on Aintree rather than Cheltenham following a bloodless triumph for Paul Nicholls and Bryony Frost in the BetVictor Novices’ Chase. David O’Meara hailed Lord Glitters “the horse of a lifetime” after he finished with a flourish to claim victory in the Jebel Hatta at Meydan.
Denise Foster will take over the reins at Gordon Elliott’s yard next week following the Grand National-winning trainer’s suspension. Elliott was on Friday banned for 12 months, with the last six months suspended, following an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board referrals hearing into the image posted on social media last weekend of the trainer sitting on a dead horse. Foster, widely known as "Sneezy" in Irish racing circles, is a vastly experienced horsewoman who has trained since 1998 when she took over from her husband, David Foster - a three-time Olympian - following his death in a riding accident. She will move her existing string from Enfield, Co Meath to Cullentra (about 8km away) for the duration. The entries will be made by Sneezy and she will be responsible for all operations. She said, “I am honoured to take over from Gordon and realise he is a hard act to follow. I am delighted by the contacts I have had with the owners and staff to date. The is a great responsibility but I could not ask for a better set up. I will take charge from Monday.”
Sunday, we start at Leopardstown. Ballylinch Stud owner John Malone had an 80th birthday present when Royal Illusion (8/13 favourite) stamped her class on the TRM Equine Nutrition Mares Maiden Hurdle. The feature race went to Mitchouka who got the deserved reward having run very well through the winter at Leopardstown. J P McManus and Padraig Roche struck in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Rated Novice Chase at Leopardstown with Steer Clear. With Mark Walsh aboard Steer Clear enjoyed himself from the front, despite jumping a bit to his right at times. Hesamanofhisword chased home at a distance of seven lengths but he was never really troubling the comfortable victor. Stansfield stuck on for third. It was a decent Sunday for Our Members 3 bets Stansfield 420 Leopardstown (1pt each way) 5/1 placed Mitchouka 450 Leopardstown (1pt each way) 5/1 won 0.5pt each-way double (placed).