Elliott poised for return to action at Punchestown

Gordon Elliott
Image: Gordon Elliott

Oh Purple Reign is set to be Gordon Elliott's first runner following his six-month ban, at Punchestown on Tuesday.

Elliott was free to begin making entries again from last Thursday, after the end of his suspension by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board in March when an image of him sitting on a dead horse was widely circulated on social media.

The top Irish trainer was banned for 12 months, with half of that sentence suspended, and ordered to pay costs of €15,000 - with the IHRB stating the punishment reflected "the seriousness of the offence and the damage to the Irish racing industry" after the image provoked huge public outcry.

Denise Foster took temporary control of Elliott's Cullentra base, enjoying a Grade One winner at the Cheltenham Festival with Mares' Hurdle victor Black Tears while also saddling dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll as he bounced back to winning form with a wide-margin success in the cross country.

Elliott initially made five entries on the Flat card at Punchestown - but after final declarations were published on Sunday morning, Oh Purple Reign appears likely to be his sole representative.

The four-year-old, a winner at Gowran for Foster on September 1, is one of a field of 14 for race three of the afternoon - the Donate To The Coast To The Curragh Cycle In Honour Of Pat Smullen Handicap.

Elliott also still has Alice Kitty engaged in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Handicap later on the card - but she is currently third reserve, so is unlikely at this stage to be granted a run.

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He has, meanwhile, been speaking of the impact felt by himself, his family and staff at his yard following the circulation of the photograph six months ago.

In an excerpt from an interview with Racing TV, which is scheduled to be aired in full on Monday, Elliott recalled the events of March.

"You think you're thick-skinned, until you see something like this," he said.

"It was terrible - I've never experienced anything like it in my life.

"We got a week of very bad social media, newspapers, television, Twitter and everything else like it.

"It is something I wouldn't ever like to experience again.

"For my family, it was unbelievable; for all the staff in the yard, for something very foolish I did, all the pain I put them through."

He acknowledges the crisis was of his own making, adding he just hopes to be able to move on after completing his suspension.

"For my family, friends, all my staff, even all the people in my village in Summerhill, it was terrible," he said.

"I probably didn't show my face in Summerhill for three or four months after … it wasn't nice.

"Obviously it was something very stupid I did. I apologised to everyone for what I did - but it was my fault, and the blame stops with me.

"I apologised to everyone, and all I want to do is put it behind me."

Elliott, best-known for his training of National Hunt stars - including Tiger Roll's Aintree exploits, and at the Cheltenham Festival - appears set to have his first jumps runners back on track on Wednesday, having entered seven horses at Sligo.

He has a possible contender in each of the seven races on the card - although Chesterville and Silver Star both hold two optional engagements.

Sligo declarations will be published on Monday morning.

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