BHA may act after Philip Fenton court case details
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary backs Last Instalment trainer
Owner Michael O’Leary, jockey Brian O’Connell and trainer Phillip Fenton celebrate Last Instalment’s win in the 2014 Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown early in February. Photograph: Inpho
It’s not just Irish racing holding its collective breath ahead of tomorrow’s District Court hearing in Carrick-On-Suir where trainer Philip Fenton will be charged with possession of unlicensed medicines including anabolic steroids. Only 20 days away from the start of the Cheltenham festival, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) hasn’t ruled out preventing Mr Fenton from running horses there if it feels details from the hearing are serious enough to justify such a course of action.
Mr Fenton trains Last Instalment, the 8-1 third favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and The Tullow Tank, a widely-fancied 8-1 shot for the Neptune Novices Hurdle. He also has Cheltenham options with Value At Risk, a 14-1 chance for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, as well as the Supreme Novices Hurdle entry, Real Steel.
While the owners of Last Instalment, Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud, vehemently backed Mr Fenton yesterday, predicting he will be cleared of any wrongdoing at the hearing, a controversy that has already cast a massive pall over the run-up to the festival could spread further if Mr Fenton isn’t cleared, or even if the case is deferred to a later date. The BHA confirmed it has not been informed of the matter by the Turf Club which has stated they are unable to take any action until the case is completed.
The case has already been deferred twice, in December and January last. Another deferment would leave Mr Fenton able to continue to run horses in Ireland but it is not certain if the same would apply in Britain. A BHA statement said: “We are in communication with the Irish Turf Club in relation to Philip Fenton’s court appearance . . . It is not appropriate for us to comment any further on this matter at this stage, although we are conscious of the need for clarity as soon as possible in advance of next month’s Cheltenham Festival.”
However sources within the BHA suggested if details emerge in the hearing that the body believe are serious enough to warrant them preventing Mr Fenton from running horses at Cheltenham, or anywhere else in Britain, it will consider such a step.