After a day of uncertainty, the following photo showing the hugely successful (multiple Grand National wins) Irish trainer Gordon Elliott nonchalantly sitting astride one of his dead horses has been confirmed – by the trainer himself – genuine.

In a statement, Elliott said:

“I would like to address the speculation and rumours that have been rife since an old photo of me began circulating on social media yesterday afternoon. Firstly, I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused and can categorically state that the welfare of each and every horse under my care is paramount and has been central to the success that we have enjoyed here at Cullentra.

“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. However, I feel it is important to provide people with some context surrounding this photo. To the racing community, to anyone who has worked with and loves horses and to anyone offended by this image I cannot apologise enough.”

“I received a call and…sat down to take it.” And that, is that.

Squeaky Cheeky, an “injured past the wire” in the 5th at Santa Anita yesterday, has been confirmed dead by the track: “Fracture[d] ankle…triaged on the turf course by track veterinarians…unrecoverable injury.” Santa Anita, that bastion of racing “reform,” now counts five dead horses through the first two months of the year and six since the start of the meet in late December. (note: Bowies Hero, injured on Jan 2 but not euthanized till Jan 18, does not appear as an official kill on either the track’s website or the CHRB database – further evidence of industry deception.) Squeaky was three, and this was his very first time under the whip.

Also: I can confirm that Wicksters Dream is indeed dead after “collapsing” in the 9th at Gulfstream Wednesday. He, too, was just three years old.

This is horseracing.

Last week…

Point Break “vanned off” at Turf
Blindwillie McTell “bled” at Aqueduct
Tiz Johnnie “pulled up lame, vanned off” at Charles Town
Jo’s Bold Cat “vanned off” at Fair Grounds
Stone Courageous “vanned off” at Laurel
Con Permiso “vanned off” at Gulfstream
Warm It Up “vanned off” at Los Alamitos
Sport Model “vanned off” at Aqueduct
Geh Imperial Kiss “hit rail, vanned off” at Louisiana
Trichrome “vanned off” at Fair Grounds

While not all the “vanned” end up dead, most do, as borne out by our year-end FOIA reports. But even if death is not the ultimate result, the above are victims nonetheless, suffering painful injuries – in the case of the bleeders, pulmonary hemorrhage – so that some men may gamble, others chase pots of gold. (For any new confirmed deaths during the week, please see our running annual list.)

Last night at Charles Town…

In the 6th, “Lanesborough suffered a fatal injury past the half mile pole and had to be euthanized on the track.” Lanesborough was four years old, and this was her 11th time under the whip. Oh, and she was also sold – for the price of a cheap used car ($5,000) – by her loving owner (James Wolf) immediately prior to dying.

Next race, about a half hour later, “Nicaloe suffered a fatal injury mid-stretch and had to be euthanized on the track.” Nicaloe was also four and under the whip for the 11th time. As the video shows, he was being beaten right up till the moment he broke. After, as the “winning” horse is being sauntered over for celebratory pics, we see Nicaloe down in the dirt – breathing his last breaths; then the “van” comes…

These are dead racehorses numbers 6 and 7 at Charles Town in 2021. And that, folks, is just raceday – surely there have been more in morning training and back in the stalls. (Which, of course, I will unearth through FOIA.)

In the 4th at Gulfstream yesterday, Aquaphobia finished last (“never prominent,” said the chartwriter), was apparently injured after the wire, and eventually “vanned off.” In fact, according to multiple sources, the 8-year-old is dead. All’s not lost for the “connections,” however, for in simply finishing, Aquaphobia “earned” $2,000.

This is horseracing.