At 70, Ted Walsh is old enough to be Gordon Elliott’s father and isn’t as close to him personally as he is with his many other racing contemporaries.
But Walsh understands the passion of horse training as well as anyone and for all his hard-nosed pragmatism was marshmallow soft when his grand old Grand National hero Papillon passed away in the field at his yard outside Naas four years ago.
He’d also have cracked up if anyone had come into his stables and taken away Commanche Court in his prime.
Gordon Elliott is expected to be banned from training after photo of him sat on a dead horse
Trainer Ted Walsh he touched on mental well-being of Elliott ahead of Friday’s IHRB hearing
On RTE Radio on Wednesday, Walsh didn’t defend Elliott’s moment of madness for perching on a dead horse, but he touched on the mental well-being of the embattled trainer ahead of Friday’s IHRB hearing.
‘People will castigate him, but I hope he’ll be strong enough mentally to get over this. It’s easy to put a nail in a fella’s coffin. At this stage he needs to be sure he’s ok mentally, to see if he needed a bit of help.
‘I hope he doesn’t suffer any more than he is now, but I fear he will.’
Elliott is expected to be banned by the IHRB from training, most likely three to six months, possibly more, and Walsh wouldn’t rule out a comeback.
‘It’s never over, once you’re alive and can fight. Other fellas have got warned off and got back. I hope mentally he can put up with it, too.’
Walsh reckons the loss of a trainer’s licence would be a ‘minor detail’ in the scheme of punishment.
Walsh reckons the loss of a trainer’s licence would be a ‘minor detail’ in scheme of punishment
‘To see Envoi Allen loaded into a box yesterday was heartbreaking. Everyone dreams of a Dawn Run or an Arkle; Envoi Allen could have been one of them.
‘I had Commanche Court. If I lost him I don’t know if I’d have got over it.
‘Gordon has lost his best horse, his staff will lose jobs. Look at the success story he’s built up. It’s all gone out the door with one crazy act. I feel so sorry for him.
‘Maybe he should take a break, take a six-month sabbatical and a breather.’
Walsh reckoned the image of Elliott astride a dead horse on his mobile phone didn’t reflect the trainer or the man he knows.
‘No, definitely not,’ he said.
Cheveley Park Stud removed eight high-class horses from Elliott’s yard, including Envoi Allen
‘I’ve known him since he was 16 and that man in the picture is not the one I know who goes racing, not the fella in whose yard I’ve been, not the fella I saw riding horses as a young fella for Tony Martin and Martin Pipe.
‘Gordon’s yard is a first class, grade A outfit, a five-star hotel, and the results show his horses are always in top condition, his staff are well-turned out, too, they love their horses. The Gordon Elliott I know looks after horses who get top-class care.
So can Walsh explain what happened?
‘I was dumbfounded. It’s not something I expected from anybody in the racing game. I was brought up to treat horses with respect, alive or dead.
‘When a horse died, you’d put a blanket over him, close his eyes. You’d call the owner and after that you’d call the people to take him away. You’d feel rotten.
‘Gordon has lost his best horse, his staff will lose jobs. Look at the success story he’s built up. It’s all gone out the door with one crazy act. I feel so sorry for him,’ Walsh said
‘I’d never have thought that anyone from a horse background would ever think about doing it. It’s a bit alien to what I was reared up to.
‘It wasn’t an accident, it was a stupid, senseless thing to go and I was very disappointed. He didn’t help himself either, that was a bad statement.’
The reputation of everyone in the Irish racing game has been rocked, as Walsh acknowledged.
‘People are saying ‘Sure, you’re some crowd’.
‘It’s like being on a team and one of your companions has let the side down.
‘Everyone suffers, we’re tarred with being callous. We’re not callous. I’d say 99 per cent of us are hardworking, decent people who love their horses.
‘Racing has done a lot for this country and anywhere around the world, America, Japan, we’re associated with good horse people.’
Elliott’s horses could run at this month’s Cheltenham Festival under a caretaker
The consequences of Elliott’s indiscretion will also affect those around him, especially the 80-strong staff he has in his yard as job losses are inevitable, while more horses may be loaded up for new horizons.
While Cheveley Park Stud has removed eight high-class horses from Elliott’s yard, including Envoi Allen, for the moment, other owners are keeping their powder dry.
Reports that Noel and Valerie Moran had pulled their powerful string were premature.
‘The rumours that we have moved our horses from Gordon’s stable are totally untrue. I have no idea where they came from,’ said Noel Moran yesterday.
‘As myself and Valerie said on Monday, we will await the decision of the IHRB hearing on Friday before making any further comment or decisions.’
As well as unbeaten Triumph Hurdle hope Zanahiyr, the Morans own Coral Cup favourite Grand Roi and Pertemps Final Hurdle fancy The Bosses Oscar.
The Morans are founders of eCOMM Merchant Solutions, which have pulled their sponsorship of Elliott’s yard due to ‘recent events’.
They followed Betfair in cutting commercial ties with the trainer.