LONDON (AP) — Gordon Elliott, a three-time British Grand National-winning trainer, apologized Sunday after being pictured sitting on a dead horse.
The undated photo was shared across Twitter on Saturday, but Elliott only confirmed its authenticity a day later.
“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,” the Irishman said in a statement. “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.”
Elliott said the photo was taken “some time ago” after a horse 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,” he insisted. “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.”
Elliott said he would fully cooperate with an investigation by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.
“To the racing community, to anyone who has worked with and loves horses and to anyone offended by this image I cannot apologize enough,” he said. “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.”
Elliott first won the British Grand National in 2007 with Silver Birch. He then trained Tiger Roll to became the first back-to-back winner of the Aintree Steeplechase since Red Rum, with success in 2018 and 2019 in horse racing’s most grueling jumps race.
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