Gordon Elliott is setting out to prove he is “not a monster” as he returns to training this week following the conclusion of a six-month ban for bringing the sport of horse racing into disrepute.
Elliott was banned for 12 months, with the last six months suspended, after an image circulated on social media showing him sat on a dead horse.
The Irish trainer was widely condemned for his behaviour and a number of leading owners, including Cheveley Park Stud, removed their horses from Elliott’s yard.
In an interview with the Racing Post ahead of his return on September 9, Elliott said: “I have to prove that the impression people have of me from the picture does not reflect who I am.
“For myself, for my family, for my staff and, most of all, for the industry and its supporters, I need to step up and prove to everyone that I am not a monster.”
Asked if he knew how and why the picture was released, Elliott said: “I don’t know who put it out there, and I had never seen the picture before it went online. When you look at how it turned up just before Cheltenham, so long after it was taken, I do feel it was malicious.”
Elliott’s ban was handed down just ten days before the start of the Cheltenham Festival in March.
He watched on from home as Black Tears, Tiger Roll and Mount Ida, now in the temporary care of Denise Foster, all won, while three of those who had been removed from the stable – Galvin, Sir Gerhard and Quilixios – also crossed the line first.
On the first day of Cheltenham, Elliott was messaged by former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who reportedly likened the outrage aimed at Elliott to the drama surrounding Eric Cantona when the Frenchman aimed a kick at a Crystal Palace fan in 1995.
Ferguson’s advice was to ‘ignore the noise’ and ask for forgiveness.
“That’s all I can focus on now,” Elliott said. “I know all this has set me back, but I have proved I can train horses at every level, and it’s all I want to do.
“I made a mistake, I understand that, and I am sorry for what I did. A chance to move on is all I’m after now.
“I suppose I just hope people will forgive me and let me move forward by going back to doing what I think I do best, training winners.”