The boss of one of Britain’s leading equine welfare organisations has warned that Gordon Elliott ‘still has a steep mountain to climb’ to convince some people he should be part of the racing world.
Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, added that he hoped Elliott, who was suspended for six months after a picture circulated of him sitting on a dead horse on the gallops of his County Meath stable, has reflected in his time away from the frontline of the sport and learned his lesson.
Elliott’s suspension, imposed by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board just before the Cheltenham Festival in March, ended last Thursday when he could start making entries again. And the 43-year-old, three-time Grand National winner’s first runner back will be Oh Purple Reign at Punchestown (2.30pm) on Monday.
Disgraced trainer Gordon Elliott was suspended by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board for six months after a picture merged of him sitting on a dead horseInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Owers said: ‘The whole justification for horse sport is we look after our horses responsibly and the image portrayed was certainly not one of responsibility. For him to come back, it is all about building his social licence — his personal social licence to be a trainer but more broadly because what he does reflects on racing and horse sport more broadly.
‘Social licence is all about doing the right thing by our horses. Obviously, this was a tragic example of where this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Clearly, he has a much steeper mountain to climb to get back to where some people think he should be part of racing.
‘We can only hope that he has used this time to reflect on what has happened, not just the specific incident but more broadly what it means. If we are to be part of a responsible horse sport, public trust is all about treating our horses with respect. If he has reflected on that, doubled down and will seek to implement it through everything he does, then the ban will have served its purpose.’
The truth is that the jury will still be split on Elliott’s comeback even if the immediate furore of him sitting on the deceased Morgan has dampened down. He has already paid a professional price. Around 50 winners were sent out from his stable while he was suspended and his yard was officially under the caretaker jurisdiction of Denise ‘Sneezy’ Foster, who trains close to Elliott.
He had his license returned on Thursday and he can now start making entries again
Most damaging was the transfer of some of his best horses to rival trainers. Galvin, Sir Gerhard and Quilixios were all subsequent Cheltenham Festival winners after they were shifted, along with hugely talented, two-time Cheltenham