Disgraced Grand National-winning trainer Gordon Elliott has revealed how Sir Alex Ferguson offered him some advice ahead of this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Elliott – who led Tiger Roll to back-to-back Grand National victories in 2018 and 2019 – was given a 12-month ban by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board after a shocking photograph of him sitting on a dead horse circulated on social media.
However, the last six months of Elliott’s ban were suspended and he will have his license reinstated on Thursday – allowing him to start making entries again.
Gordon Elliott revealed how Sir Alex Ferguson offered him some advice following the scandal
In March, Elliott, 43, was suspended by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board after a picture which had been taken in 2019 emerged of him sitting on a dead horse on the gallops of his County Meath stable.
Elliott apologised ‘profoundly’ after the images circulated in February. He said the photo dated back to ‘some time ago’ and denied suggestions his actions had been ‘callous’, stressing that he was caught off-guard after receiving a phone call.
Elliott was given a 12-month ban by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board after a shocking photograph of him sitting on a dead horse circulated on social media (above)
The last six months of his ban were suspended and he will have his license back on Thursday
Nevertheless, Elliot was banned just ten days before the start of the Cheltenham Festival in March. However, his horses were still able to race as Denise Foster took over as the licensed trainer at Elliott’s Co Meath stables.
Elliot has since revealed to the Racing Post that Sir Alex Ferguson contacted him during ahead of the festival to tell him to ‘ignore the noise’ and ask for forgiveness.
Now sixth months on from the scandal and Ferguson’s phone call, Elliot says he is eager to prove he is ‘not a monster’ as he returns to training this week.
Speaking to the Racing Post, he said: ‘I have to prove that the impression people have of me from the picture does not reflect who I am.
‘For myself, for my family, for my staff and, most of all, for the industry and its supporters, I need to step up and prove to everyone that I am not a monster.
Sir Alex Ferguson contacted him during Cheltenham festival – telling him to ‘ignore the noise’
Owners Cheveley Park Stud moved all eight horses, including the unbeaten Envoi Allen (above), in Gordon Elliott’s care to other trainers
‘That’s all I can focus on now. I know all this has set me back, but I have proved I can train horses at every level, and it’s all I want to do.
‘I made a mistake, I understand that, and I am sorry for what I did. A chance to move on is all I’m after now.
‘I suppose I just hope people will forgive me and let me move forward by going back to doing what I think I do best, training winners.’
Professionally Elliott has paid the price for his act of madness. He missed out on around 50 winners in his name.
He also a handful of his best horses as the British-based Cheveley Park Stud moved the likes of Quilixios and Sir Gerhard, who both subsequently won at the Cheltenham Festival, plus previous two-time Cheltenham Festival winner Envoi Allen to rival Irish trainers Henry De Bromhead and Willie Mullins.
When asked if he knew why the picture had been released, Elliott said: ‘I don’t know who put it out there, and I had never seen the picture before it went online.
‘When you look at how it turned up just before Cheltenham, so long after it was taken, I do feel it was malicious.’
Despite the circumstance behind the publication of the photograph, the IHRB felt that Elliott’s actions had ‘damaged the reputation of the Irish racing industry and the thoroughbred industry’.
As a result, Elliott accepted his ‘situation’ and ‘sanction’ – saying he felt he was dealt with fairly.
His statement read: ‘I accept my situation and my sanction. I was dealt with fairly.
‘I am in this situation by my own action and I am not going to dodge away from this. With my position in the sport, I have great privileges and great responsibility. I did not live up to that responsibility.
‘I am no longer the teenage boy who first rode a horse at Tony Martin’s 30 years ago. I am an adult with obligations and a position in a sport I have loved since I first saw horses race.
‘I am paying a very heavy price for my error but I have no complaints. It breaks my heart to see the hurt I have caused my colleagues, family, friends and supporters. I have a long road ahead of me but I will serve my time and then build back better.
‘I was disrespectful to a dead horse, an animal that had been a loyal servant to me and was loved by my staff. I will carry the burden of my transgressions for the rest of my career. I will never again disrespect a horse, living or dead, and I will not tolerate it in others.
‘Finally, I want to thank my owners and my staff who, despite being let down by me, have been unstinting in their support. I will vindicate their faith in me.’