eternity to Gordon Elliott.
It’s possible the biggest worry he had in the early part of last Saturday might have been the threat Tritonic might pose to stable stars Zanahiyr and Quilixios in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after Alan King’s horse bolted up in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton.
A first-world problem if ever there was one.
Then his world caved in.
So much has been said and written about the image that emerged on social media of Elliott sighting astride a dead horse but some things bear repeating.
It’s not inconsistent to feel shocked and appalled by the grotesque picture and to have a degree of compassion for a human being under siege in the days since its emergence in the public domain.
Some might even consider that a balanced view.
Nor is unreasonable to say that while he deserved a ban, he didn’t deserve a career-ending punishment. As
callous and unedifying as the image was, it was not an act of cruelty. The ban imposed by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) yesterday evening — 12 months, six of which are suspended — seems proportionate. Elliott made a mistake, a terrible mistake, one both he and his staff have already and will continue to pay a heavy price for.
However, his trial by social media has made for deeply
Beyond the incident itself, Elliott will surely regret his initial statement where he sought to provide “some context” to the picture with a bizarre explanation of how he came to be sitting on the ill-fated beast.
Restoring a reputation battered by this sorry episode won’t be easy but once he has served his punishment, he deserves a second chance.
Away from the Elliott controversy, it promises to be a busy day of racing in Britain with the ITV broadcasting nine races from three venues: Doncaster, Newbury, and Kelso.
Given how close we now are to the big show, the time for any further Cheltenham clues has probably passed but there’s still plenty to get stuck into and Paul Nicholls can get a nice pre-Festival boost by winning Newbury’s feature, the BetVictor Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase, for a record tenth time.
Given he finished last of three, beaten 56 lengths when sent off the 4-5 favourite on his most recent start, there are risks attached to supporting Nicholls’ Grand Sancy.
However, that flop in Wincanton was blamed on a respiratory issue and he has been given 119 days to recover from it.
He had begun the season with a 13-length Chepstow victory, one of five career wins on good ground and it will be no surprise if Grand Sancy bounces back to make it a sixth today.
Nicholls can also provide the answer in the BetVictor Veterans’ Handicap Chase where Present Man bids to get back to winning ways.
Like Grand Sancy, Present Man hasn’t raced since disappointing in November but he goes well fresh and will relish conditions.
The nap comes from Kelso where My Drogo should prove hard to beat in the Grade Two bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle. Dan Skelton’s charge is two from two over hurdles, the second of which a Grade Two win as Ascot where subsequent Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory was back in third. That’s clearly strong form and a repeat of that effort should see home in front.
Most eyes will be on ante-post Grand National co-favourite Cloth Cap in the bet365 Premier Chase but Jonjo O’Neill’s charge, last seen running away with the Ladbrokes Trophy, might find this trip of just shy of three miles an insufficient stamina test.
In that expectation, preference is for Two For Gold, a course and distance winner in December 2019. Kim Bailey’s charge got off the mark for this season when scoring at Warwick last month and should put up another bold bid here.
There’s Irish interest in the bet365 Morebattle Hurdle where the Emmet Mullins-trained The Shunter, who won the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, looks to have a favourite’s chance while Flash Collonges appeals as the likeliest winner of the bet365 Handicap Hurdle.
Doncaster’s feature race is the Virgin Bet Grimthorpe Handicap Chase where Canelo should prove a tough nut to crack. A Grade Three winner at Wetherby over Christmas, Alan King’s charge could only manage fourth last time out but this looks a weaker contest than that Doncaster race.
Elsewhere at Doncaster, Go Millie Go can complete a hat-trick by winning the Virgin Bet Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle while Getaway Trump gets the vote in the Virgin Bet Handicap Chase.