Trainer Gordon Elliott has apologised “profoundly” after admitting a photo of him sitting on a dead horse while on a phone call is real.
But Elliot later admitted that the photograph in question was genuine.
The 42-year-old said: “I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused and can categorically state that the welfare of each and every horse under my care is paramount and has been central to the success that we have enjoyed here at Cullentra.
“The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops. I appreciate that an initial viewing of this photo suggests it is a callous and staged photo but nothing could be further from the truth.
“At what was a sad time, which is when any horse under my care passes away, my initial reaction was to get the body removed from where it was positioned.
“I was standing over the horse waiting to help with the removal of the body, in the course of which, to my memory I received a phone call and, without thinking, I sat down to take it. Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished.”
Elliott is currently preparing for the Cheltenham Festival later this month where he boasts 32 winners, including the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup with Don Cossack.
But he now finds himself in the midst of an Irish Horse Racing Board (IHRB) investigation into the photograph of him straddling the dead horse.
IHRB chief executive Denis Egan said: “I can’t put a timeline on it but the investigation is ongoing and will be dealt with as quickly as possible.”
Elliott could find himself facing a disrepute charge, the penalty for which varies from a fine to a full suspension, and he said he was fully cooperating with the authorities.
He added: “To the racing community, to anyone who has worked with and loves horses and to anyone offended by this image I cannot apologise enough.
“Horse welfare and the care and attention to detail involved is absolutely at the core of everything we do here and both myself and all of my team pride ourselves on those standards.”