Prominent owner Philip Reynolds has vowed to support trainer Gordon Elliott, while launching an impassioned plea for people to find it in their hearts “not to destroy him”.
Reynolds has eight horses at the Co Meath yard, including top staying chaser Presenting Percy, and intends to keep them with Elliott despite a photo of the trainer sitting on a dead horse on his gallops being posted on social media at the weekend.
Elliott faces an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board hearing on Friday to consider the matter, with the British Horseracing Authority also having announced he will not be permitted to have runners in Britain until the issue is resolved.
Reynolds admitted his own sense of “shock, horror, disappointment, anger and sadness” at the photo, which resulted in fellow owners Cheveley Park Stud removing their eight horses from the yard on Tuesday – including unbeaten superstar Envoi Allen.
He believes the “scars of this week” are the “ultimate punishment” for Elliott – and underlined his personal, positive experiences at the Cullentra stable.
In a statement, Reynolds said: “None of us has a monopoly on shock, horror, disappointment, anger and sadness – and having spent my life owning horses and in the pet industry, believe me, in this case, I own as much of those feelings as anyone else.
“My professional relationship with Gordon dates back more than five years. In that regard and having been to his yard a number of times, I have no hesitation saying his facilities are world class – and as a trainer, well, his record speaks for itself.
“I would love people to hear the many stories of how, and only because of his deep understanding and passion, he revived and made horses champions again.
“Not just the big names like Silver Birch or Samcro, but the many much lesser lights whose owners’ Grand Nationals were won mid-week in the pouring rain in small tracks up and down the country.
“But sadly it seems in this discourse there is little room. I know no matter what I say there will be folks who believe no punishment will be strong enough. I accept their view. Mine is from a sense of forgiveness.
“The authorities will deal with Gordon, but his trial has already played out. We have stripped him bare and flogged him in public. The scars of this week are his ultimate punishment, ones that will live him him long after we have all moved on to the next event.
“For all these reasons, and accepting this is a one-time error of judgement, I will stay with Gordon – and I hope we can all find it in our hearts not to destroy him. He’s only human.”
Like Reynolds, Gigginstown House Stud signalled their support for Elliott earlier in the week, describing the photo in question as “unacceptable” but stating their horses would remain at the yard.