Fenton’s Festival runners get the green light

Philip Fenton, left and Eddie O'Leary at Clonmel Racecourse. Picture: PA
Philip Fenton, left and Eddie O'Leary at Clonmel Racecourse. Picture: PA
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Trainer Philip Fenton will be allowed to have runners – including leading Gold Cup hope Last Instalment – at the Cheltenham Festival next week, the British Horseracing Authority has announced.

Fenton is facing a number of charges in Ireland in relation to possession of unlicensed substances, including steroids, following a visit by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in January 2012, with his case adjourned until 20 March, the week after the Festival.

Following consultation with the Irish Turf Club, BHA officials visited Fenton’s yard last Wednesday, with samples from his horses collected and fast-tracked for testing at HFL Sport Science, Newmarket. The BHA also interviewed the Carrick-on-Suir handler, and said its investigation “found no evidence that Fenton’s Cheltenham-entered horses have been administered with anabolic steroids”.

A statement read: “After a process of gathering all available information, which included testing of the horses with Cheltenham entries, an interview with the trainer, liaison with the Irish Turf Club, and analysis of the location and testing histories of the horses, BHA has found no evidence that any of the horses in question have been administered with any substances which would be considered prohibited. Therefore, on the basis of the evidence gathered and the legal advice obtained by BHA, the horses Dunguib, Last Instalment and Value At Risk have been cleared to take up their entries.”

Fenton said last week he would assist the BHA “in every way”, with one his biggest supporters, Last Instalment’s owners, Gigginstown House Stud, especially vocal in their support for the 49-year-old trainer. After the case was adjourned on 20 February, owner Barry Connell announced he would not run any of his horses based with Fenton at Cheltenham, notably by dual Grade One-winning novice hurdler The Tullow Tank.

In addition to Last Instalment, Fenton has former Champion Bumper winner Dunguib and a contender for this year’s renewal of that race in Value At Risk, engaged at Cheltenham.

Gigginstown’s racing manager Eddie O’Leary said: “We fully expected this decision to be reached. We’ve been very happy to assist the BHA and the Turf Club in reaching this decision. What we hope now is that this has cleared everything up.”

However, with Cheltenham’s latest going report being soft, good to soft in places, O’Leary warned Last Instalment, who has a history of leg problems, was not a definite runner. “This horse will not run unless the ground is soft. There is a bit of rain forecast next week and we’re hoping it materialises,” he said.

The Turf Club is also “watching with interest’’ after Pat Hughes was named as a second trainer facing court charges related to the alleged possession of substances contrary to regulations. Hughes appeared in Carlow District Court on 13 February and his case was adjourned until 8 May.