Simon McGonagle, head lad to currently disqualified trainer Gordon Elliott, has been banned nine months, with the last seven months of the ban suspended, by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board for taking the photo of Elliott sitting aboard a dead horse that circulated on social media and led to Elliott's own six-month ban. The last seven months of McGonagle's ban will be suspended for a year, after which the disqualification will lapse. McGonagle's ban begins on Apr. 16.
McGonagle, who has been employed within the racing industry for approximately 30 years and first started working for Elliott in 2007, was found by the IHRB to have acted in a manner prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horse racing-a charge that was also brought against Elliott. McGonagle did not contest in his hearing that he took the photograph, and the committee learned that he shared it with five friends. This ultimately led to the photograph becoming public from an unknown source. McGonagle accepted that “by virtue of his actions he was part of a chain of events that has caused damage to the integrity of racing and he fully understands the outrage expressed in relation to this image.”
The IHRB said in a statement, “We will not repeat what has been said before about the awful image at the heart of this case. The taking of the image was ill-judged and in bad taste and we consider that Mr. McGonagle should have known better as a head lad involved in the industry for a considerable time. As head lad he should also show a good example to others in the yard. However, we reiterate the points made in the Elliott case that this incident is not concerned with cruelty or horse welfare. Also, having heard the evidence in this case we are no further on as to how this image came into the public domain and we can reach no conclusions on that issue. We reach the sanction having considered all of the circumstances, aggravating and mitigating factors, bearing in mind the seriousness of the offence and the need for deterrence, and considering Mr. McGonagle's personal circumstances, in order to reach a proportionate result.”