Runners trained by Ireland's Gordon Elliott could be barred from this month's Cheltenham Festival after British horse racing officials imposed a ban in response to a photograph of him sitting on a dead horse.
In a statement issued Monday, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), who had earlier described the picture as a "shocking image", said they would not allow Elliott to race horses in Britain while their Irish counterparts investigate a photograph that appeared on social media over the weekend.
That could mean horses trained by Elliott are unable to run at the March 16-19 Cheltenham Festival, England's premier jumps meeting, where he is expected to have a string of fancied contenders, including two-time Aintree Grand National winner Tiger Roll.
"The British Horseracing Authority will not allow the Irish trainer Gordon Elliott to race horses in Britain whilst the Irish authorities investigate an image that appeared on social media over the weekend," said a BHA statement.
"The action taken by the BHA recognises that Mr Elliott is licensed in Ireland, whose regulatory body, the IHRB (Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board), is carrying out its own investigation."
The statement went on to say that British rules of racing applied to Elliott once he had entered horses to race in the UK, with the BHA adding their "interim decision" to refuse to allow horses trained by Elliott to run in the country was "proportionate in these circumstances".
Elliott's horses could, however, still make their way onto UK tracks while the Irish investigation is ongoing, as the BHA said owners would be permitted to transfer them to a different trainer and run them at a British meeting "providing they comply with the relevant rules".
The 42-year-old Elliott apologised late Sunday, saying he had been waiting to help with the removal of the unnamed horse after it had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops and had acted without thinking when his phone rang.
"I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused," he said.
"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."
Eliott added: "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."
Michael O'Leary, Elliott's principal owner and the chief executive of Irish budget airline Ryanair, said he accepted the trainer's "sincere and unreserved apology".