Mix a reprehensible blunder with an attempt at sinister retribution and you have a toxic cocktail in the Gordon Elliot saga. Playing out on social media, it injured not only the intended target, but a whole industry and Ireland’s reputation as the Land of the Horse.
It used to be that a scandalous bit of gossip would travel no further than the townland around it. Now like a ground to air missile it can magnify and explode in totally hitherto unforeseen ways to inflict terrible collateral damage on totally innocent people, whose livelihoods can be cruelly wiped out.
If there is one lesson to be learned from this sorry case it is this – when associating with any horse we have to imagine ourselves dealing with a dear friend in full view of a critical world. The same goes for both those tempted to do something stupid and those wishing to use the horse as a weapon of punishment.
While in no way exonerating the despicable act that started this furore, I do agree with the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s (IHRB) assessment that there was a “sinister aspect” to this case that was part of a concerted attack on Gordon Elliot.
As was noted in Leo Powell’s editorial in The Irish Field on the matter, those who ignited this controversy must now ask themselves – was it worth it?
After that bit of negativity I also wish to highlight one very positive story emerging from our industry.
Following on from our profile of show jumper Leslie Fitzpatrick a few weeks back, I received word from the Camon family of Cloughan, Ballysheil Co Offaly about a picture of Leslie on a pony they sold back in the 1950s that proudly hangs in their house.
Named by them as Ginger and ridden by James Kenny of Killourney he was a champion performer at local shows. When winning at Shinrone, he was noticed by the McDowell family of Happy Ring House fame. Granny McDowell then arranged for Leslie and his dad Bernard to view Ginger at the Camon farm.
“He was full of life and jumped everything put in front of him,” Padraig Camon tells me.
A final bargain was struck when Granny McDowell, the Fitzpatricks and the Camons met up at Dooly’s Hotel in Birr. £100 with a £10 note back for luck clinched the deal and Ginger was later brought to Athlone Station to be collected by the Fitzpatricks.
Renamed Mc D after Granny McDowell he scored well for Leslie and it is a picture of them winning the open at a Wicklow Show that now 60 years later, still holds pride of place in the Camon Homestead – Ireland’s love to the equine illustrated.