Irish jockey apologizes for sitting on dead horse

DUBLIN (AP) — An amateur jockey from Ireland apologized on Tuesday after video of him sitting on a dead horse was posted on social media, following one of the country’s leading trainers being banned from entering runners in British races because of similar conduct.

Rob James, a winner at the Cheltenham Festival last year, confirmed he was the person in the widely circulated video who was seen straddling the dead horse while others watched and laughed.

James said his actions were “wholly inappropriate and disrespectful” and he was “heartbroken by the damage” he has caused.

“I sincerely apologize to the owners of the mare, the staff who cared for her, the horseracing industry and all followers of horse racing for my actions,” he told the Irish Field, a racing newspaper in Ireland.

“To try defending my stupidity at the time would add further insult and hurt to the many loyal people that have supported me during my career. I have caused embarrassment to my employers, my family and most importantly the sport I love.”

James said the horse in the video — a 5-year-old mare — had just suffered a sudden cardiac arrest during exercise. The incident took place on April 30, 2016.

It is being investigated by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, which is already looking into an incident involving Elliott — one of the top trainers in Britain and Ireland.

A photo of Elliott posing for a photo while sitting on a dead horse that had just died of a heart attack caused shock and anger in the horseracing industry and beyond, leading to the British Horseracing Authority blocking him on Monday from entering horses into races in Britain while he is being investigated.

Elliott said it was a “moment of madness” and accepted his actions were “indefensible.”

James’ winner at Cheltenham last year, Milan Native, was trained by Elliott at the Gigginstown Stud.

Elliott’s most famous current horse is Tiger Roll, which won the Grand National in 2018 and ’19 and was going for an unprecedented three in a row in the grueling steeplechase before the race was postponed last year amid the pandemic.

Gigginstown said on Tuesday that Tiger Roll would not be running in the 2021 race, being staged on April 10, because of an “unfair weight burden.”

Even before Elliott’s temporary ban, the Gigginstown operation had stated Tiger Roll would not run if it was not happy with his weight.

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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