RACING chiefs are 'appalled' at a photo of top trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on the body of a dead horse.
And the British Horseracing Authority say they are looking at their own 'regulatory options' regarding the three-time Grand National winner.
Elliott, 42, has apologised after confirming the snap is genuine.
In it, Elliott – who has been axed by bookies Betfair – is doing the peace symbol with one hand and on the phone with his other.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, who owns the famed Gigginstown Stud, has said he is standing by Elliott.
But the BHA have condemned the Irish trainer's actions in the strongest terms in a damning statement.
A BHA statement read: "The BHA is appalled by the image that appeared this weekend.
"We expect all those in our sport to demonstrate respect for horses, on the racecourse, in the training yard, on the gallops, and wherever they have horses in their care.
"People who work in our industry believe their values – of caring for and respecting our horses – have been deeply undermined by this behaviour.
"On their behalf, and on behalf of all horse-lovers, we say unequivocally that British horseracing finds this totally unacceptable.
"The BHA is considering its own regulatory options, recognising that the Irish authorities license Mr Elliott and are carrying out their own investigation."
A Horse Racing Ireland statement also slammed the 'disturbing' photograph that has rocked the sport just two weeks before the start of Cheltenham Festival.
The statement read: "Horse Racing Ireland unreservedly condemns the disturbing photograph that appeared on social media at the weekend.
"This image does not reflect the care, attention and respect that race horses receive, and does a disservice to the thousands of people who look after their horses on a daily basis. Horse Racing Ireland notes and supports the IHRB investigation into the circumstances around the photograph."
The matter is now in the hands of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.
Chiefs are probing the origins of the photo, which Elliott said came about when he sat on the horse 'without thinking'.
Elliott said: "The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops. I appreciate that an initial viewing of this photo suggests it is a callous and staged photo but nothing could be further from the truth.
"At what was a sad time, which it is when any horse under my care passes away, my initial reaction was to get the body removed from where it was positioned.
"I was standing over the horse waiting to help with the removal of the body, in the course of which, to my memory I received a call and, without thinking, I sat down to take it. Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished.
"Such background information may seem trivial at this time and will not allay the concerns of many people both within and outside the world of horse racing."
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