Can We Forgive … ?

September 19th, 2021 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Hi there,

The racing community has generally been prepared to forgive one of its members for a misdemeanour provided they show a smidgeon of contrition.

It is often said we are a ‘tightly-knit family’, comprising all types including those who sail close to the wind.

In the case of Gordon Elliott his behaviour when photographed sitting on a dead horse may have been a one-off moment of lunacy but, at the same time, it betrayed an indifference to the respect that should be afforded a creature that had served his time honourably.

In my view the Racing Post has handled the trainer’s return from suspension in a balanced and measured way.

David Jennings, their Deputy Ireland editor, noted simply that Elliott had three winners on the Navan card on Saturday, focusing far more on the successful return of Davy Russell from a 343-day gap since his last winner.

Elliott’s two winners at Downpatrick received four paragraphs of quotes from the trainer, but none from writer Brian Sheerin, but his success with Fancy Foundations at Sligo on Wednesday – his first winner since his suspension was lifted – got page three coverage under the heading ‘Elliott back in the groove as he saddles first winner since returning from six-month suspension.’

Writer Mark Boylan reported that the ‘small crowd seemed to provide Elliott was a warm reception’, with the trainer adding a few words of his own about the reaction.

On Tuesday Chris Cook wrote a substantial article in the Post about what the trainer could expect on his return from suspension. Cook, true to the lofty status he rightly enjoys, spoke to many of racing’s biggest names – Martin Pipe, Ted Walsh, the BHA, and others including freelance journalist Daragh O’Conchuir.

Comparing it with the case of ‘serious negligence’ with trainer Charles Byrnes and the occasion when Davy Russell struck a horse before the start at Tramore, both those cases could be considered graver than Elliott’s, in terms of animal welfare, but Elliott’s profile is much higher.

As Daragh O’Conchuir said in Cook’s article these things ‘go away’ and have ‘their time.’

This is not to condone what happened, but it is probably a realistic appraisal of the likely long-term response from the industry.

For some the image was so graphic that it will stay in the mind of many people whenever Elliott is seen or named. I have to concede that will be the case with me, even though I have witnessed many disturbing sights in my fifty-plus years in racing.

Perhaps the best approach is to follow one of the great defences put up by some of our civilisation’s more fair-minded people when dealing with wrongdoings.

It may be difficult to forget the deed, but we must try to forgive the man. Perhaps a case of canny semantics, but it helps.