Jockey Rob James apologises for dead horse video

Video delivers another hugely embarrassing blow to image of horseracing

Jockey Rob James has apologised for his “stupidity” after an image emerged on Tuesday morning that showed him sitting on a dead racehorse.

A video showing the amateur rider mounting a horse that had died of a heart-attack - reportedly during an exercise gallop in 2016 - has left racing's reputation tarnished even further on the back of the Gordon Elliott controversy over the weekend.

Elliott has apologised profoundly for a photograph taken in 2019 of him sitting on the dead racehorse Morgan on his gallops.

The future of one of racing’s most high-profile figures is unclear with an investigation by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board ongoing but on the back of Britain’s racing authorities already imposing an interim ban on him having runners there.


Now it has emerged that James, who rode the Elliott trained, and Michael O’Leary owned, Milan Native to win at last year’s Cheltenham festival, is at the centre of a video which delivers another hugely embarrassing blow to the sport.

In the video, James sits on the dead animal as if he is riding it while other people in the background can be heard laughing.

In an interview with racing’s trade paper, the Irish Field, James has quickly apologised for his actions.

“I have become aware of a video circulating of me on social media. I would just like of apologise for my actions which were wholly inappropriate and disrespectful to a lovely five-year-old mare, who unfortunately suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while at exercise earlier that morning, April 30th, 2016.

“I sincerely apologise to the owners of the mare, the staff who cared for her, the horseracing industry and all followers of horse racing for my actions.

“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.

“I am heartbroken by the damage I have caused and will do my best to try and make amends to those hurt by my conduct,” he said.

The IHRB has confirmed it has launched an investigation into this incident as well.

It adds further pressure to a sport already beleaguered by widespread revulsion at the image of Elliott sitting on the dead horse on his gallops.

Condemnation of the Co Meath trainer has included criticism from government circles and on Tuesday Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers said that he was "absolutely shocked, appalled and horrified" by the Elliott photo.

He also said he would not be comfortable seeing the trainer taking part in the Cheltenham racing festival later this month.

Chambers told Newstalk Breakfast that “any and every sanction” should be on the table for the trainer.

“I think he needs to be held fully accountable. I think anyone who saw it was shocked by it and we need to uphold the highest animal welfare standards in Ireland.

“Any and every sanction should be on the table. It is important. We have a significant amount of equestrian activity in Ireland and we need to set a really high bar when it comes to welfare standards,” he said.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column