Foster To Take Over While Elliott Serves Ban

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Denise Foster pictured in 2016 | racingfotos.com

Trainer Denise Foster will take over the license at Gordon Elliott's Cullentra Stables while Elliott serves a six-month ban handed down by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on Friday after a disturbing photo surfaced last weekend on social media of Elliott sitting astride a dead horse in his care. The news of Foster's takeover was first reported by the Irish Field, with Racing Post later confirming the appointment with Foster.

Elliott was on Friday given a 12-month ban, with the last six months suspended, and an order to pay €15,000 towards the IHRB's costs for the case. Details of the suspension of the second half of the ban, such as how long the suspension will apply and what actions would trigger its institution, have not been revealed. The ban will come into effect on Mar. 9. Elliott was charged under Rules 272 and 273 (xiii) of the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules which, respectively, address individuals acting “in a manner which is prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing” and any act “likely to be prejudicial to the interests of the IHRB or which is likely to cause serious damage to the interests of horseracing in Ireland.” The horse in the photo was Morgan (Ire) (Big Bad Bob {Ire}), a then 7-year-old mare owned by Gigginstown House Stud who is believed to have suffered a heart attack during routine morning exercise in 2019. In the photo, Elliott was sitting on the horse while on the phone and appears to be giving the 'victory' sign.

Elliott said in a statement released through his Gordon Elliott Racing Twitter account on Friday that he accepts the situation, and he assured the IHRB that he would not attend any formal race meetings or point-to-point fixtures for six months. A statement released on Saturday on Elliott's Twitter account with regards to Foster's appointment read, “Gordon Elliott Racing is pleased to confirm the Racing Post story that Denise Foster will take over the license at Cullentra Stables during the period of Gordon Elliott's suspension. Denise is vastly experienced and her appointment is great news for staff and owners. Gordon will be available to assist her as she requires.”

A few hours later, the statement was re-posted with the last line removed. The tweet containing the original statement was deleted.

Foster, who is based down the road from Elliott in Co. Meath, has trained the winners of 10 races-six on the flat and four over jumps-over the past five seasons. The 67-year-old told Racing Post she would be moving her “nine or 10” horses to Cullentra.

“It's daunting, but exciting,” she said. “I'm really looking forward to it. It feels right and I feel very comfortable with it. I've known Gordon for a long time and I already know a lot of his staff. He has an incredible team here. I only live up the road so it just feels right. There has been huge support of these plans from his owners which is very encouraging. I'm incredibly proud of all Gordon has achieved and through all that success he has remained Gordon Elliott. I've been in awe of him and everything he's done in the last few years.”

Prior to the emergence of the photo last weekend, Elliott was in line to have a typically power-packed lineup for the Cheltenham Festival, Britain's most important jumps meeting, beginning on Mar. 16. Cheveley Park Stud was among those to move its horses from Elliott-including its star novice chaser Envoi Allen (Fr) (Muhtathir {GB})–prior to the ban being handed down, while Gigginstown Stud was among those to voice their support of the trainer. The British Horseracing Authority had moved swiftly and banned Elliott from having runners in the UK while the IHRB's investigation was ongoing, and on Friday the BHA reciprocated Elliott's ban and said horses formerly under Elliott's care would be permitted to compete at Cheltenham should they be moved directly to new trainers before Mar. 9.

With the National Hunt season set to conclude at the end of April, Elliott is Ireland's leading trainer by winners with 155. He has won seven races this week and his Kruzhlinin (Ger) (Sholokhov {Ire}) won a handicap chase at Navan on Saturday.

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