Alan Byrne Of The Racing Post Discusses The Gordon Elliot ControversyHighlights from The Pat Kenny Show
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- 2 Mar 2021
Alan Byrne Chief Executive and Editor in Chief of The Racing Post discussed the Gordon Elliot controversy and what next for horse racing trainer Gordon Elliot after posing for a picture while sitting on a dead horse
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The part Kenny show on news talk with Marter private network during current restrictions. Don't ignore your health concerns. Our expert team is ready to help. Now, one of Ireland's most famous horse training racing trainers, Gordon Elliott, is in hot water now over that picture of him sitting astride a dead horse which spread across social media. And he has said it was an indefensible moment of madness and one that he will spend the rest of his life paying for. Allan Byrne is the chief executive and editor in chief of The Racing Post.
Alan is on the line.
Allan, good morning. Morning Passport. Now, we all know the story at this stage and people have been universally, I'd say, shocked about this. What is your take on this controversy? Well, I think as Gordon himself now says, it is utterly indefensible. I mean, it's a disgusting picture. It's a horrible, horrible scene. It's amazing that somebody thought it was worthy taking the photograph. And it's even more amazing that somebody of Gordon's experience and his overall record with horses should have done what he did and then sit down on a poor animal who just died on the gallops.
So it's reprehensible. And I think it's causing untold damage to horse racing. And, you know, Gordon is going to pay a heavy price as he says he'll be paying the price for the rest of his life. In the short term, I suspect when there's an enquiry, he'll find himself losing his licence. And would that be a permanent loss, do you think, or would it be, you know, for a number of months or years even?
You know, I think it'll be the latter, but I think it'll be, you know, months, a number of months, you know, maybe as much as a year, who knows? And I think he knows what he did was reprehensible. And, you know, the racing authorities have to be seen to take that seriously. And, you know, we all operate on the basis that we believe horses in training yards and in on breeding farms are cared for very well and looked after brilliantly.
And this suggests that might not be the case. And, you know, there's another pretty horrible video of video this time doing the rounds this morning and featuring another dead horse and an amateur rider. And and, you know, I think a lot of people, you know, there's widespread revulsion at that. The images that we've seen and a lot of people are thinking, well, hang on, do I know this sport as well? As I thought I knew it because the people that I see and I meet and look after their horses superbly, you know, I've seen stable staff in tears, jockeys and tears, trainers and tears when anything goes wrong with the horse.
And people have observed that, you know, those staff were more worried when something happens to a horse than when a human gets injured in an accident. But, you know, these images are at variance with that. And I mean, the action of sitting astride the dead animal, which didn't happen. The suggestion was years and years ago, but in fact it was 2019, I think is the date that's put on it. I mean, I can't imagine how someone would actually find themselves in that position.
It's unconscionable to me that someone would actually set aside a dead animal.
Just completely agree with you. I mean, Gordon issued what I thought was a particularly idiotic statement on Sunday night. Yes, it was good that he was apologising, but he explained that he was doing his best to help the stricken animal and he got a phone call. You know, is he really saying that's his care for horses? Is such runs only so deep that a phone call can distract him from us? I'm sure that's not what he intended.
And, you know, in fairness to Gordon, we have to judge him on his overall record over a long time. But he knows that, you know, this is going to define the public's perception of him for some time and he needs to win people's trust back. And I'm afraid the racing industry needs to win back the trust of the wider community and show that, you know, the horses in everyone's care are, as Ruby Walsh said yesterday, you know, treated in a first rate manner.
And, you know, this is not something that's most racing. People will recognise her. Peter Scudamore, the former champion jockey in Britain, virtually in tears, saying, you know, having looked at the image and feeling that he needed to walk around his stables and apologise to to his horses, as it were.
Some of the comments coming in from our newstalk listeners, Taig says on the topic of Gordon Elliott and the picture, I've worked for nearly a dozen trainers and the horse's welfare is always paramount. All horses in training nowadays are afforded a degree of reverence that human beings would be jealous of. You wouldn't dare bang a door on a race card, and rightly so. Why does anyone care how horses are treated in death once they've been properly cared for in life?
Come on, guys. That's from Taig saying, OK, the horse is dead, it's over for the horse. So what do you say to that?
Look, I recognise Pat. I recognise Tiger's description of how well horses are cared for in life. I think most listeners would feel that they're entitled to dignity in death as well. And I think that that is Gordon Elliott's view, and that's why he's ashamed and embarrassed about what he did. And, you know, I do agree with Tiger that the horses are cared for brilliantly, but they are entitled to consideration if something goes wrong and they die like that horse did on on the gallops.
Yeah, but they may be disposed of in a way ultimately that, you know, many people don't want to think about too much.
Another one, Gordon Alijah was completely stupid and insensitive to pose for that photo. But the hypocrisy of our nation and the minister is astonishing. When I witnessed silkie racing on the roads every single week, which is ignored by all, it's an incredibly cruel sport for the horses, never mind the risk to the public at large. Yet our media, guardian and the politicians are happy to ignore that this is a real horse welfare issue, not a photograph.
That's from Liam. A awfully. Look, I think there are lots of animal what general animal welfare issues, and there are some people who have dogs at home who are not looking after them properly or not feeding them properly or, you know, subjecting them to danger. But I think from a from a horse racing perspective, you know, Gordon Elliott is a hugely talented trainer and a high achiever, and he's trained, you know, three grand national winners.
Tiger Woods won the Grand National twice. Michael O'Leary, who's come out and supporting Gordon, is doing his best to distract from the current headlines by announcing this morning that Tiger role will not be running in the Grand National next month because they consider the waste to be unfair. But, you know, Gordon has has a fantastic record. And, you know, the important thing is that he serves his punishment for this and gets on with demonstrating that he really does look after horses and that this was a horrible aberration and not typical of how he conducts himself.
And Alan, he has adverted to the people in the yard and how this will affect them. I mean, what will happen, given the loss of sponsorship and so on going forward? What will happen in the yard?
Well, I think it'll be difficult. It remains to be seen whether somebody can take over if Gordon does have a ban of bonds to serve, will somebody else take over the horses in the yard or the horses be dispersed to other trainers? But you would have to surmise with sponsors being lost, as you mentioned, and presumably some owners being so upset that they don't want to continue with him, you would have to surmise that Gordon, in a year's time may not be employing 80 people.
We don't know, but there has to be an impact on his business. And that's part of the price that he alludes to that he would be paying. And there'll be some people who say, well, you know, that's that's right and proper because he did something wrong. But, you know, we should remember that, as he put it, it's one moment of madness and that should define his whole life and career.
Allan Baron, chief executive and editor in chief of The Racing Post, thank you very much for joining us.