When that “infamous” picture first appeared, I like many was angry and disappointed in Gordon Elliott and wanted the book thrown at him, a life ban was muted by plenty. By the time his punishment was announced a week or so later I had calmed down and felt a 6-month ban was probably correct. There was an outcry at the time that it was too lenient. But was it? 6 months means he misses the three main festivals Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown but is back in time for next season and now that the first of those major meetings is done and dusted let’s have a look in depth at the result of that ban.
Black Tears - Grade 1 Mares Hurdle
Sir Gerhard - Grade 1 Championship Bumper
Quillixios - Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle
Galvin - Grade 2 National Hunt Chase
Tiger Roll - Cross Country Chase
Mount Ida - Fulke Walwyn / Kim Muir Handicap
What do those 6 horses have in common? Correct, all were Cheltenham winners but all until THAT photo emerged all were trained by Gordon Elliott. Add to that hot favourite and likely future superstar Envoi Allen who did not get round this time and that is quite a week.
Remember Willie Mullins was lauded as top trainer with the same number of winners that Elliott would have had. Bringing Tiger Roll back to his absolute best when the world wanted him retired was without doubt a superb training performance that because of that picture doesn’t merit a mention in the press.
Tiger Roll's win will go down in the history books as a Denise Foster winner but that is undoubtedly down to Elliott, his hard work as with the other winners unrecognized because of his ban.
It may only have been six months but be in no doubt the effects of that will be detrimental to Elliott’s career for a long time to come and losing the hugely talented Cheveley Park owned horses would destroy some careers.
Elliott will be back this Autumn and racing should welcome him back (albeit not with open arms) Everybody deserves a second chance and remember his crime was in bad taste and disrespectful but not cruelty.
It's certain that other trainers have had less of a punishment for being guilty of worse. Elliott will find it hard when he returns and be confronted with the fact that a lot of hard-earned respect has gone. He is sure to train winners again, but his career has had a major setback and racing will not forgive easily, he will get plenty of grief from press and paying public once back on a racecourse once more.
That “just 6-month ban” now looks a huge penalty. He needs to earn forgiveness but for one I say he deserves his chance at redemption! written by Steve Marriott