“It just makes me feel really sad.”
Fitzgerald was speaking in the aftermath of a social media image appearing to show the Irish trainer posing on top of a dead horse.
Mick Fitzgerald Gordon Elliott photo
The former Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer was emotional when asked to give his thoughts on the photo.
“My initial reaction to it was, ‘I hope it’s a fake’,” Fitzgerald said.
“I just thought it has to be a fake. When I read that statement, I can’t help but feel anything else but feel so sad.”
“These horses have given me a life that I’m privileged to have, and it just makes me really sad.”
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) March 1, 2021
The ITV and Sky Sports Racing pundit was keen to stress how deeply-loved racehorses are by everyone in the racing community and wanted to get that across to the wider audience watching.
“The number one thing we have to get out to everybody is how much we care about these horses,” Fitzgerald explained.
“It’s so important everybody knows that at the heart of this are people who love these animals.
“It’s making me quite emotional because these horses have given me a life that I’m privileged to have.”
The emotional 50-year-old admitted the photo made him “really sad” as he has unfortunately been involved in a number of situations where a horse has had has to pay “the ultimate sacrifice”.
“It just makes me feel really sad,” Fitzgerald added.
“I’ve been in situations where horses I have looked after or ridden have unfortunately paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“The care and attention they get right to the very end is so important and we have to emphasise that people know we care for these horses.
“We want to celebrate them and make them realise how much they are loved by everybody in the sport.
“We have nothing but the interest of these animals at heart.”
Gordon Elliott reaction
Bookmaker Betfair – Gordon Elliott’s sponsors of the yard – have ceased their partnership with the Co. Meath trainer.
“While we recognise that Gordon deeply regrets and apologised unreservedly for his poor judgement, his actions are completely at odds with the values of the Betfair brand and that of our employees,” a Betfair statement said.
“With that in mind, we have decided to discontinue our association with Gordon with immediate effect.”
However, Gigginstown House Stud – owners of two-time Grand National winner Tiger Roll – have stood by Elliott.
“We accept that this photograph was a grievous but momentary lapse of judgement by Gordon, and not in keeping with our 15-year experience of his concern for and attention to the welfare of our horses,” a statement from racing manager Eddie O’Leary read.
“We all make mistakes, and what is important is that we learn from them and ensure we do not repeat them.
“We accept Gordon’s sincere, profound and unreserved apology and we will continue to support him and his team at Cullentra, as they work to recover from this deeply regrettable incident.”
Elliott trains March Novice’s Chase favourite Envoi Allen – owned by Cheveley Park Stud – who is arguably the most exciting jumps horse in training right now.
Cheveley Park themselves have released a statement saying they will wait for the IHRB’s investigation before making any further comment.
“We are truly horrified and dismayed by the photograph doing the rounds on social media,” a statement read.
“However, we will await the official outcome of the investigation by the IHRB, which we trust will be swift, before making any further comment/decisions.”