Horse racing is among the world’s oldest sports and is celebrated globally with iconic events such as Britain’s Grand National, Australia’s Melbourne Cup and America’s Kentucky Derby. But as animal rights activists have raised awareness on how the sport’s athletes — its horses — are treated, the sport has regularly found itself on the defensive.
The photograph of Elliott prompted outrage and dismay, both from racing enthusiasts and those who object to the sport, as well as from jockeys and Elliott’s fellow trainers. Peter Scudamore, a retired champion jockey, told the BBC that the photo “was an act of crass stupidity.”
“It is just such an appalling image, and I’m very sad about it,” he said.
“I thought it had to be a fake,” a former jockey, Mick Fitzgerald, said on Sky Sports. “I felt so sad. The No. 1 thing we have to get out to everybody is how much we care about these horses. It is so important.”
Cheveley Park Stud, a leading breeding and racing operation, said it would remove the eight horses it has under Elliott’s care, including several major contenders for the Cheltenham Festival this month.
Betfair, a sports betting company for which Elliott had been an ambassador, severed its ties with him. “While we recognize that Gordon deeply regrets and apologized unreservedly for his poor judgment,” the company said, “we have decided to discontinue our association with Gordon with immediate effect.”