Whether a momentary lapse in judgement or a sign of something more sinister, there’s no doubt that Gordon Elliott has been a prized idiot.
The photo of him sitting astride a dead horse on the gallops, giving the peace sign and generally playing to the camera, shocked the racing world and has even crossed over into mainstream media – never a good thing.
Racing is a sport where the welfare of the horses it deploys is – and should be – of paramount importance, and even for a yard with an exemplary safety record there’s no doubt that Elliott has scored a massive own goal.
Soon enough, we will know the punishment that the Irish trainer will face, but for now it seems almost a certainty that he will miss the Cheltenham Festival and possibly even the Grand National given the ‘temporary’ ban handed to him by the BHA.
Update 5/3/21: Gordon Elliott has had his training license withdrawn for 6 months with a further 6 months suspended. This will begin on the 9th March 2021.
Will Gordon Elliott Miss the Cheltenham Festival?
At the time of writing, the British Horseracing Authority has put a temporary banning order on Elliott.
“It is an interim decision which the BHA regards as proportionate in these circumstances,” a statement from the organisation read.
The interim nature of the ban is because the Irish Horse Racing Board (IHRB), with whom Elliott is licensed to train, have launched their own investigation into the image, and they may decide to uphold the BHA’s ban or even meter out a more significant punishment.
What Will Happen to Gordon Elliott Now?
It’s fair to say that this is an unprecedented scenario, and as such we have no real way of knowing how the IHRB or the BHA will judge the matter.
A powerhouse in Irish horse racing, Elliott is a Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup winning trainer, with more than 25 winners at the Festival to his name.
But that is likely to matter very little here, with equine welfare absolutely front and centre on the agenda.
It seems highly unlikely that a fine will cut the mustard – especially now that the world is watching after the story crossed over into mainstream media, and it may even be that a year’s ban from training, which would allow Elliott to return in time for Cheltenham 2022, could be considered severe enough.
Elliott, you suspect, would feel like a very lucky boy if that is what pans out….
What Will Happen to Elliott’s Cheltenham Entries?
It’s a bit of a predicament.
As mentioned, it seems nigh on a certainty that Elliott will not be allowed to be present at Cheltenham, and that ban is likely to involve his training yard staff too.
So what happens to Tiger Roll? Envoi Allen? Zanahiyr? There’s a myriad of runners to Elliott’s name, with more than 100 associated with his team.
It seems likely that they will still be allowed to compete at the Festival. There is a possibility that the owners and connections of those mentioned will simply transfer their training to another yard.
Gigginstown, for example, have a rollcall of trainers at their behest, including Noel Meade and Henry de Bromhead, so while there will be some complications in transferring the horses ultimately they will still get to run in their target races.
The Cheveley Park Stud, for whom Elliott is a prolific operator, have already acted decisively. They have transferred Envoi Allen, Quilixios and Ballyadam have been switched to De Bromhead’s yard, while Gerhard, Classic Getaway and more will reside with Willie Mullins.
The ultimate question for those trainers is whether the move is temporary, or whether they will consider making it a permanent transition given the likelihood that Elliott will be ‘damaged goods’ from here on in….
And What About Elliott’s Grand National Entries?
As if one slice of shocking news for Irish racing wasn’t enough, more followed today (March 2) with the revelation that Tiger Roll will not attempt to win a third consecutive edition of the Grand National.
The Elliott trained stayer would have made history with victory at Aintree, however the Gigginstown team believe he has been treated unfairly by the handicapper and they won’t risk their horse’s health unduly.
Breaking: Tiger Roll withdrawn from Grand National by Gigginstown over “unfair weight” pic.twitter.com/V4sjIF6nXm
— Laura Scott (@LauraScott__) March 2, 2021
So that answers one question about the trainer, whose BHA ban may still be in place by the time the April 10 showpiece comes around.
Horses that may be affected then by the trainer’s potential absence include RSA Chase champion Presenting Percy, Farclas and former Kim Muir Chase winner Milan Native.