The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board's referrals committee convened at 9.30am this morning to hear evidence in the investigation into the conduct of leading trainer Gordon Elliott.

A photo of Elliott sitting on a dead horse appeared on social media last weekend, with the trainer admitting that the image was genuine in a statement released on Sunday evening. 

The Cullentra House handler is still saddling runners on this side of the Irish Sea, but has been prohibited from having runners in Britain by the British Horseracing Authority, pending the outcome of the IHRB hearing. 

Many had assumed that Friday's hearing would be held remotely due to the current Covid-19 restrictions, but it emerged on Thursday that the parties in question would meet in person Friday morning, with the IHRB's Curragh headquarters believed to be the venue for proceedings. However, the hearing is taking place at an undisclosed venue. 

The IHRB, in line with protocol, has opted against identifying those on the referrals committee and what specific charges Elliott could face.

In the event that Elliott is found guilty of any wrongdoing, he could face a ban from the sport and/or a maximum fine of €20,000. 

The Grand National-winning trainer would have seven days to appeal any sanctions and could send out runners for up to 14 days from the date of the ultimate verdict. 

With governing bodies in foreign jurisdictions almost always reciprocating and respecting judgements handed down in territories outside their remit, that means that Elliott could in theory still send runners to the Cheltenham Festival.

However, the BHA has the discretionary power to refuse entries from any trainer. 

The unbeaten Envoi Allen is the highest profile horse shorn from the ranks of Elliott amid the controversy, with Henry de Bromhead assuming the training duties for the favourite for the Marsh Novices' Chase at Cheltenham. 

Envoi Allen is one of a number of Cheveley Park Stud-owned stars dispatched to De Bromhead and champion trainer Willie Mullins.

Noel and Valerie Moran, who are local to the Elliott yard but new to racehorse ownership on a major scale, are adopting a watching brief for now and are awaiting the decision of the hearing before making any public decision on the future of their horses. 

However, Gigginstown House Stud – owner of Morgan, the horse straddled by Elliott in the offending image –is sticking by the trainer, describing the incident as a "grievous but momentary lapse of judgement".