Gordon Elliott saddled his first runner, Oh Purple Reign, in a one-mile handicap on the Flat at Punchestown
Gordon Elliott was back on a racecourse for the first time in six months on Tuesday but he returned without a winner after Oh Purple Reign, his single runner, only managed to beat two home in a Flat handicap at Punchestown.
The trainer was banned for a year – six months suspended – by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board after a photograph of him sitting on a dead horse went viral a fortnight before the Cheltenham Festival. The incident cost him some high-profile horses, including three which went on to win at the Festival, and Envoi Allen, unbeaten in Elliott’s care.
Though Elliott, 43, has been allowed at the sales, Tuesday was his first visit to a racecourse since the incident. “It’s great to be back racing and seeing faces I haven’t seen in a long time,” he told the Racing Post.
“I would obviously have preferred the horse to have run a bit better but it’s nice to be back. I have really missed coming racing and I’m looking forward to getting back into that routine.”
Elliott is back on more familiar territory – a jump meeting – when he sends four runners to Sligo on Wednesday. The Sliding Rock, Silver Star, Imperial Sachin’s and Fancy Foundations all have chances at the west coast port’s racecourse.
Here, William Haggas is hoping to get a run into Addeybb, the most significant contributor to the trainer’s 16 Group races at home and abroad this season, in the next week ahead of his defence of the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October.
The seven-year-old gelding, who won a second Group One Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in Australia in April, has not run since finishing second to St Mark’s Basilica in the Eclipse.
“He’s in at Newbury and Ayr this week and Goodwood next Wednesday,” said Haggas. “I’d run him at Goodwood if I knew it was going to be wet and there’s quite a lot of rain forecast for Ayr on Friday. Ideally I want to run Al Aasy at Newbury. Addeybb a bit rusty and he absolutely needs a run before Ascot. He’s getting harder to get fit at home.”
Local trainer Denise Foster was installed as the named trainer at Cullentra House, Elliott’s state-of-the-art farm conversion in Meath on March 9 but not before a small number of very high-profile horses, including subsequent Cheltenham Festival winners Galvin, Sir Gerhard and Quilixios, had been moved to other trainers. Galvin has subsequently returned to Elliott.
Financially, Elliott also lost his role as an ambassador for Betfair and his yard sponsor but, if you asked him, the biggest loss was the removal of Envoi Allen who had been unbeaten in 11 starts under rules for Elliott, including two at Cheltenham.
He recently told the Racing Post that he still wakes up thinking about Envoi Allen every night although the horse fell at Cheltenham and pulled up at Punchestown for last season’s man of the moment Henry de Bromhead.