Gordon Elliott has shown that horse racing isn’t a love affair between man and animal | Zoe Williams

By: Zoe Williams Wednesday 3 March 2021

The trainer has damaged his sport’s delicate contract with the public after he was photographed sitting on a mare’s corpse

If you happened to tune in to the Today programme midway through the sport section on Tuesday, the atmosphere was anguished and baffling. “His world is crumbling in front of him right now,” said David Jennings, deputy Irish editor of the Racing Post. “He is a broken man.” In the space between hearing these powerful words and discovering the subject, one’s imagination could go anywhere – a life-changing injury, the untimely loss of a loved one. In fact, they were talking about Gordon Elliott, the Irish horse trainer and three-time Grand National winner, of whom a picture went viral at the weekend.

In the picture, Elliott is sat on a horse, holding a phone with one hand and making a sideways victory sign with the other. The problem is the horse is plainly dead, and it’s not a pretty death, the poor creature’s gaping mouth and glassy eyes seeming to tell the story of a loyalty so intense that it went beyond its heart’s endurance to satisfy the demands of a training run. According to Jennings, Elliott now feared the worst, which would be the removal of his licence and the loss of his business, the jobs of 80 staff gone beside his own. “We cannot defend this,” Jennings continued. “You can’t defend it, I can’t defend it, Gordon can’t defend it. This cannot be defended.” And yet, Jennings went on to talk about the two sides there were to every story, seemingly at pains to imply that the picture wasn’t what it seemed.

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