Shock and anger are the abiding feelings in racing this morning, 12 hours after Gordon Elliott’s admission that the horrific image revealing him astride a dead horse on his gallops, which had actually been flowing on social networks because Saturday evening, is genuine.
However there is a sense of pins and needles too– a reluctance to evaluate not just the scale of the damage that the photograph has actually already caused on racing, but also just how much worse it could get over the coming days and weeks.
Even the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) appears shocked into silence by the magnitude of the unfolding PR catastrophe. Nothing has actually emerged from the Irish regulator considering that a brief tweet to say that it was “conscious” of the image early on Saturday evening.
In the meantime, the photo has actually been around the world a lots times and been seen by millions. For some, it will just reinforce an existing belief that the sport is violent and cruel. A lot more, however, will have had no fixed viewpoint about racing one way or the other, beyond a sense that if others enjoy it or make a living from it and the horses are well taken care of, where’s the damage?
It is not as bad as it looks, it is worse. The authorities need to act swiftly and decisively
Their minds will recoil from the photo, as many did within racing on Saturday and Sunday as we continue to hope versus hope that it would show to be fabricated. When seen, it can’t be unseen, and for numerous it will be their one, abiding image of racing for several years to come.
In this regard, Elliott’s deeply unconvincing attempt to offer “context” for the photo on Sunday night just makes things worse. Even if it all occurred as he explained– and the evident series of unfortunate coincidences extends credulity to breaking point– he needs to still have actually know that, for whatever bizarre factor, the minute had been tape-recorded on camera. Did it really not occur to him how destructive that could show to be?
No one in racing can argue about the extent of Elliott’s accomplishments. He was the youngest trainer to win a Grand National in 2007, he has saddled 32 winners at the Cheltenham Festival and been the leading trainer at the meeting twice. He also developed his hugely successful stable from scratch, with no silver spoon required.
Clearly, and maybe undoubtedly, he has actually likewise made enemies along the method. Michael O’Leary’s horses were when spread out around more than a lots stables in Ireland, but Elliott has progressively become top pet dog. A close-knit racing yard, on the other hand, can also foment bitter rivalries and jealousies.
More information about the origins of the image and likewise who at first shared it online may emerge when the IHRB lodges a case against Elliott for bringing the sport into disrepute. There might likewise be a link to another video flowing on WhatsApp recently which seemed to show staff at the backyard, Elliott consisted of, drinking in a congested bar.
In this context, the abrupt development of the photograph a year or more after it was taken is unlikely to be a coincidence. Someone with a burning grievance versus Elliott is apparently determined to bring him down, and there will be those in racing who argue that malice should not be allowed to be successful. He is one of the best and most effective fitness instructors the sport has seen, dozens of individuals at his steady depend upon him for their livelihood and he has made– and confessed– one horrible error.
We are likewise most likely to hear another familiar line from earlier events when the outdoors world looked into the racing bubble and was shocked by what it saw: “it’s not as bad as it looks”. And this is true– however just because, in a world of social media, instantaneous messaging and millions of views in simply a few hours, how something looks matters more than ever.
It is not as bad as it looks, it is worse and the IHRB requires to act swiftly and decisively to safeguard the sport’s image and credibility. The ramifications of a long ban for the trainer are considerable, both in the short-term with the significant Festivals at Cheltenham and Aintree looming and likewise, above all, for his many workers. Ultimately, however, the obligation for what happens next lies not with the person who shared the image, however with Elliott himself.
When he allowed himself, for whatever reason, to be photographed astride a dead horse while taking a phone call, Elliott failed not just his own employees, however every one of the lots of thousands of employees in racing, in Ireland and Britain, who cherish racehorses and devote their lives to taking care of them. It seems unimaginable that his name might still be on the racecards at Cheltenham a fortnight tomorrow.