Gordon Elliott received a warm reception as he returned to the winner’s enclosure for the first time since a six-month suspension for bring racing into disrepute.
The leading Irish trainer, who was banned after an image of him sitting on a dead horse was widely circulated on social media in March, enjoyed success with Fancy Foundations at Sligo on Wednesday.
Having seen his ban expire last Thursday, Elliott saddled his first runner since March 8 on Tuesday’s Flat card at Punchestown – where Oh Purple Reign finished well beaten.
The Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning handler was widely expected to get off the mark in the opening race back over the jumps at Sligo on Wednesday, but 8-13 favourite The Sliding Rock made a bad mistake when trying to close in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Beginners Chase and finished third of four runners.
With Silver Star and Imperial Sachin’s also out of luck later on the card, it was left for Elliott’s final runner of the day Fancy Foundations to come up with the goods in the Templehouse Lake Chase – which he ultimately did in battling style.
Faced with just three rivals, the even-money favourite did not always convince in the jumping department, but dug deep for Denis O’Regan after the final fence to get the better of Blackstair Rocco by four lengths.
Afterwards, Elliott received warm applause from those around the parade ring.
He said: “It was nice to get that reception from the people here. I’ve missed them for the last six months, as much as they’ve missed me.
“It’s brilliant for my staff. They’ve worked hard. Alicia, the girl who led up the horse, is going back to college next week to be a vet, and that was her first time leading up a winner – so it’s great.”
On the winner, Elliott added: “We thought we were coming here with two good chances, the mare in the first [The Sliding Rock] and obviously this lad.
“It was a good performance. He was a bit keen. and it was a tactical race, but Denis gave him a good ride and he jumped well. It’s great for Andrew and Gemma Brown [owners], who are great supporters of the yard.
“He’s not a real winter, heavy-ground horse and he’ll probably go for a novice chase at Cheltenham in October.”
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