Leading Irish racehorse trainer Gordon Elliott says a photo circulating on social media of him posing with a dead horse is real.
The image shows him sitting on a dead horse while making a phone call.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) has launched an investigation into the image, which Elliott says was taken “some time ago”.
“I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused,” he told the Racing Post.
The 43-year-old, who is based in County Meath, is a highly successful trainer who has won the Grand National three times, including twice with Tiger Roll.
“I can categorically state that the welfare of each and every horse under my care is paramount and has been central to the success that we have enjoyed,” he said.
“The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops.
“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.
“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. 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.”
An IHRB spokesman said on Sunday: “The investigation is ongoing and will be dealt with as quickly as possible.”
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said it was aware of the image and officials are in contact with their Irish counterparts.