WARNING: The following article contains disturbing images that some readers may find offensive.
Leading trainer Gordon Elliott has been suspended by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board after a photo of him sitting on a dead horse emerged on Saturday.
The photo of Elliott seemingly posing for a photo while sitting on the deceased horse sparked anger and outrage in British racing circles.
'AWFUL SCENE': Horse racing world in shock over 'horrific' moment
The Irishman has since been banned from entering runners into British races until the conclusion of an investigation by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.
Elliott, a three-time Grand National winner, on Monday apologised and confirmed the authenticity of the undated photo that was shared across Twitter.
It shows him sitting on a horse that had just died of a heart attack after a training run.
Elliott offered a somewhat convoluted explanation about the incident, which he said occurred "some time ago".
He said he was waiting for the body of the horse - which has not been named - to be taken away when he received a phone call and sat down on the horse "without thinking".
"I was standing over the horse waiting to help with the removal of the body, in the course of which, to my memory I received a call and, without thinking, I sat down to take it," Elliot said in a statement.
"Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished.
"Such background information may seem trivial at this time and will not allay the concerns of many people both within and outside the world of horse racing.
"I appreciate that an initial viewing of this photo suggests it is a callous and staged photo, but nothing could be further from the truth.
"At what was a sad time, which it is when any horse under my care passes away, my initial reaction was to get the body removed from where it was positioned."
Racing world horrified by Gordon Elliott photo
Cheveley Park Stud, one of Elliott's most high-profile employers, said it was "truly horrified" by the image.
Bookmaker Betfair dropped Elliott as an ambassador, saying his actions were not consistent with its "values".
The sentiments were echoed by the body that runs British horseracing in a scathing statement.
"People who work in our industry believe their values - of caring for and respecting our horses - have been deeply undermined by this behaviour," the British Horseracing Authority said.
The BHA said it was "appalled" by the image and imposed a temporary ban on Elliott training horses in British races while the IHRB investigates.
Elliott has been a Grand National-winning trainer three times, first in 2007 with Silver Birch.
He then trained Tiger Roll to become the first back-to-back winner of racing's most gruelling jumps race - in 2018 and 2019 - since Red Rum in the 1970s.
Tiger Roll could yet make him the first trainer to win three consecutive Grand Nationals and the horse's owner Michael O'Leary is one of the few to come out in support of Elliott.
"We accept that this photograph was a grievous but momentary lapse of judgement by Gordon," said O'Leary, who is also the chief executive of budget airline Ryanair.
"And not in keeping with our 15-year experience of his concern for and attention to the welfare of our horses."
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.