Gigginstown Stud stands by Fenton
Michael O’Leary’s horse-training yard expresses support for Tipperary-based trainer
Owner Michael O’Leary, jockey Brian O’Connell and trainer Phillip Fenton celebrate Last Instalment’s victory in the Gold Cup. Photograph: Inpho/Morgan Treacy
Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud, owner of the Philip Fenton-trained Last Instalment, insist the horse remains on target to run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in three weeks time.
The yard have again expressed their support for the Co Tipperary-based trainer.
After yesterday’s hearing into charges against Mr Fenton by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine was adjourned until after the upcoming Cheltenham festival, owners of a high-profile horse announced it will not run in the festival.
Barry Connell, owner of The Tullow Tank, trained by Mr Fenton, announced the horse will not run again until the case is resolved.
The Tullow Tank had been a major contender for the Neptune Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham but Mr Connell, a Dublin-based businessman, said: “In light of the uncertainty surrounding the deferral of legal proceedings against Philip Fenton, I have decided that neither of my two horses in training with Philip, The Tullow Tank and Volvalien, will run in any races until the matter is dealt with. In the meantime both horses will remain in training with Philip as usual.”
Many bookmakers say they will refund any ante-post bets on The Tullow Tank.
No plans for a similar move are being considered by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud in relation to the 8-1 third favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Last Instalment.
“We are used to the assumption that someone is innocent until proven guilty,” said Mr O’Leary’s brother, and bloodstock adviser, Eddie O’Leary. “Philip has assured us he is innocent and we believe him. I think it would be very unfair on the horse, on the owners, and the breeders, not to give him a chance to run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.”
However, whether the opportunity for Last Instalment to run at Cheltenham will remain open is unclear. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) are looking for “as much information as is currently available” from the Turf Club about the case. It has cast a pall of controversy on the lead-up to the festival, one of the most high-profile on the racing calendar.
An official BHA statement said: “It would be inappropriate to comment further.” But a BHA source has stressed the body is not ruling out preventing horses trained by Mr Fenton from running at Cheltenham if it feels it has grounds to do so. It is believed the BHA could take a decision as early as next week.
Last Instalment became a prime contender for Cheltenham when he was an impressive winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown earlier this month. It completed a remarkable comeback from serious injury for the horse after almost two years.
Another possible Fenton- trained starter at Cheltenham is Value At Risk, a 14-1 shot in some betting lists for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper on day two of the festival.