What does ‘warned off’ mean?

Beyond the idiomatic sense of being discouraged from doing something, in the world of horse racing, a individual who is ‘warned off’ is subject to a specific punishment imposed by a regulatory body, such as the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), in Britain, or the Irish Horseracing Board (IHRB). Once ‘warned off’, an individual cannot enter premises licensed by the regulator, such as racecourses or training establishments, including their own, or associate with jockeys, trainers, owners or any other licensed or registered persons. The duration of the punishment could be months or years, at the discretion of the regulator.

For example, in March, 2021, Simon McGonagle, head lad to Co. Meath trainer Gordon Elliott, was warned off for nine months, seven of which were suspended, for taking an infamous photograph of Elliott sitting astride a dead horse. The photograph circulated widely on social media and led to the trainer being fined €15,000 and having his licence suspended for six months. Both men were found guilty of acting in a manner which was ‘prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing’. Other serious rule breaches include corruption, in all its forms, and administering prohibited substances, such as anabolic steroids, to horses.