Online gambling operator Betfair has severed its connections with Gordon Elliott, after an image of the renowned Irish racing trainer sitting on a dead horse circulated on Twitter.
The picture of the trainer sat on the horse, which allegedly died of a heart attack, is reported to be some years old, and first surfaced on social media on Saturday.
Despite an apology from Elliott – who insists that he was distracted by a phone conversation whilst waiting for the horse to be removed from the gallops – the incident has been condemned by Betfair, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and the Horse Racing Ireland (HRI).
“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,” Betfair said in an official statement.
“With that in mind, we have decided to discontinue our association with Gordon with immediate effect.”
Elliott has also explained that he will cooperate with an official investigation launched by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), but the BHA has called on Irish authorities to respond quickly due to the Cheltenham festival occurring on one month – an event at which Elliott is a regular attendee and competitor.
The BHA stated: “The BHA is appalled by the image that appeared this weekend. We expect all those in our sport to demonstrate respect for horses, on the racecourse, in the training yard, on the gallops, and wherever they have horses in their care.
“People who work in our industry believe their values – of caring for and respecting our horses – have been deeply undermined by this behaviour. On their behalf, and on behalf of all horse-lovers, we say unequivocally that British horseracing finds this totally unacceptable.
“The BHA is considering its own regulatory options, recognising that the Irish authorities license Mr Elliott and are carrying out their own investigation.”
The HRI has joined its British counterparts in condemning the picture, saying: “Horse Racing Ireland unreservedly condemns the disturbing photograph that appeared on social media at the weekend.
“This image does not reflect the care, attention and respect that race horses receive, and does a disservice to the thousands of people who look after their horses on a daily basis. Horse Racing Ireland notes and supports the IHRB investigation into the circumstances around the photograph.
“From a disciplinary perspective, the matter is in process, so any further comment on the matter or the detail of the case at this time would not be appropriate.”
Despite officially disassociating itself from the trainer, Betfair continues to maintain a significant presence in the sport of horse racing.
The firm will act as sponsor of ITV Racing’s The Opening Show, under the terms of an agreement between Flutter Entertainment – the owner of the operator and fellow sportsbook Paddy Power – and the free-to-air broadcaster.