For the first time since early March, a Gordon Elliott runner walked into a winner’s enclosure at Sligo on Wednesday as the Grand National-winning trainer recorded his first success after being banned from the sport for six months when a photograph emerged showing him posing astride a dead horse on his gallops.
Elliott saddled two favourites on the Sligo card and while The Sliding Rock (8-13) finished third of four earlier in the afternoon, Fancy Foundations, at even money, was a comfortable four-length winner of the Templehouse Lake Chase and returned to warm applause from the crowd.
The image of a smiling Elliott sitting on Morgan, a seven-year-old who died of an aneurysm in 2019, made headlines around the world when it was published online in late February. He was banned by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s Referrals [disciplinary] committee on 5 March, and also fined €15,000 [£12,800] for an act which the panel described as “unforgivable … [but] nonetheless, an event which took place without deliberation or forethought over a time period of some seconds.”
Several high-profile horses left Elliott’s stable in the aftermath of the case, including Envoi Allen, one of Ireland’s best chasing prospects, and Sir Gerhard, the winner of the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival a fortnight later.
He has also since parted company with leading British-based owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, after a BBC Panorama investigation broadcast in July showed secretly-filmed footage of one of their horses, Vyta Du Roc, being slaughtered in a British abattoir.
“It was nice to get that reception from the people here,” Elliott said. “I’ve missed them for the last six months, as much as they’ve missed me. It’s brilliant for my staff, they’ve worked hard. Alicia, the girl who led up the horse, is going back to college next week to be a vet, and that was her first time leading up a winner, so it’s great.”
Fancy Foundations could be among Elliott’s first runners in Britain following his ban, as he is being considered for a novice chase at Cheltenham’s Showcase meeting on 22 and 23 October.