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Talking Horses: pressure builds on Irish racing over extent of Elliott ban

Greg Wood
·4-min read

More detail could emerge on Monday on the extent to which Gordon Elliott’s six-month ban from training will remove him from day-to-day involvement in his stable, when the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) is expected to formalise the transfer of responsibility for his Cullentra House stable to his near-neighbour, Denise Foster.

The Irish racing authorities decided on Friday to suspend Elliott’s licence for six months after a photograph emerged of the trainer posing on a dead horse on his gallops in 2019. Mr Justice Groarke, the IHRB committee’s chair, said in delivering its decision that a suspension of Elliott’s licence was “merited … to reflect the seriousness of the offence and the damage to the Irish racing industry”.

Related: Damage of Gordon Elliott's 'moment of madness' will take years to erase

While Foster, who has a small stable a few miles away from Elliott’s yard in County Meath, was soon identified as being likely to take over responsibility for Cullentra House, doubts about the extent to which Elliott would be excluded from involvement emerged on Saturday, when a statement issued by Elliott suggested he would “be available to assist [Foster] as she requires”.

While the statement was deleted and subsequently reissued with no mention of Elliott assisting Foster, the original line prompted speculation that the trainer, who lives at the stable, would in effect be able to continue to train his string, albeit without receiving official credit for winners or a percentage of prize money won.

The IHRB is still awaiting the necessary forms to complete Foster’s installation as the licence-holder at Cullentra House, and will not offer any comment on conditions, if any, that will be imposed on Elliott until the process is complete.

Southwell 12.30 Faustinovick 1.00 Black Tulip 1.30 King D'Argent 2.00 Rockstar Ronnie 2.35 Drakes Well 3.05 Mr Chua 3.40 Opine

Wetherby 2.10 Barrichello 2.45 Dexcite 3.15 Hunny Moon 3.50 Zalvados 4.20 Haafapiece (nap) 4.50 Eaton Miller 5.20 Moriko De Vassy

Wolverhampton 4.40 Stay Smart 5.10 Rosie Powers 5.40 Power Over Me 6.10 Galahad Threepwood (nb) 6.40 Jeans Maite 7.10 Unforgiving Minute 7.40 Morlaix

The British Horseracing Authority, meanwhile, has already said it will reciprocate the penalty imposed on Elliott in Ireland but will also be aware that the degree to which the trainer remains involved in the running of the stable will be seen as a measure of the severity of his punishment, his having posed for a picture that caused widespread disgust and anger inside and outside racing.

The shocking image emerged less than two weeks before the Cheltenham Festival, where Foster will have responsibility for a strong team of horses. The BHA suspended horses from the Elliott stable from running in Britain as an interim measure four days before Friday’s hearing into the case, but has declined to comment on any possible issues surrounding Elliott’s penalty until the detail of the new arrangement is clear.

Monday’s best bets

It is perhaps not an afternoon to get too deeply involved in the betting markets with Cheltenham on the horizon, but it will be hard to resist an interest in Haafapiece (4.20) when he returns at Wetherby, nearly three months after a heavy fall at the final flight at Cheltenham’s December meeting.

Southwell 12.30 Faustinovick 1.00 Black Tulip 1.30 King D'Argent 2.00 Rockstar Ronnie 2.35 Drakes Well 3.05 Mr Chua 3.40 Opine

Wetherby 2.10 Barrichello 2.45 Dexcite 3.15 Hunny Moon 3.50 Zalvados 4.20 Haafapiece (nap) 4.50 Eaton Miller 5.20 Moriko De Vassy

Wolverhampton 4.40 Stay Smart 5.10 Rosie Powers 5.40 Power Over Me 6.10 Galahad Threepwood (nb) 6.40 Jeans Maite 7.10 Unforgiving Minute 7.40 Morlaix

Pam Sly’s eight-year-old put up arguably the best performance of his career to finish a close second over this track and trip in November, and he was running an even better race in stronger company at Cheltenham a few weeks later before crashing out with victory still a very live possibility. He faces a potential improver in the unbeaten Pay The Piper, but Ann Hamilton’s runner may need to find several pounds if Sly has Haafapiece anywhere close to his best.

Galahad Threepwood (6.10) is thriving and can register a third win on the bounce at Wolverhampton, while Opine (3.40) may be worth waiting for in the last at Southwell.