Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud team has welcomed the
British Horseracing Authority
decision to allow
entries at next week’s festival, including Ireland’s leading Gold Cup hope Last Instalment.
Results taken from Fenton-trained horses by a BHA drug-testing team last week “found no evidence that Fenton’s Cheltenham-entered horses have been administered with anabolic steroids” and so nothing will be done to prevent them running.
The Co Tipperary trainer faces charges of possession of unlicensed medicines, including anabolic steroids, with a court case adjourned until two weeks’ time.
The BHA interviewed Fenton last week as part of their investigations, which included analysis of the location and testing histories of the horses, and issued a statement yesterday: “The BHA has found no evidence that any of the horses in question have been administered with any substances which would be considered prohibited for an in-training test.
“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 Cheltenham entries.”
Gold Cup relief
The news was especially welcome to backers of Last Instalment, 8-1 third favourite for the Gold Cup tomorrow week, with any concern about the horse's chances now confined to old-fashioned worries about the state of the going at Cheltenham.
"The horse is fine but he will need the ground to be safe," said Eddie O'Leary, brother of the Ryanair boss and Last Instalment's owner, Michael O'Leary. "We want the word 'soft' to appear in a description. But we will be over there to see for ourselves."
As for the BHA decision, O’Leary added: “We fully expected it. We’re very happy to have worked with the BHA and the Turf Club to have resolved this . . . We would never tolerate the use of substances on any of our horses. Hopefully this clears things up enough for Cheltenham.”
The BHA chief executive Paul Bittar said: “Our objective upon hearing about the charges faced by Philip Fenton was to maintain the integrity of, and ensure public confidence in, the relevant races at the Cheltenham festival.
“Hence the priority was to obtain all available information to inform our decision as to whether there was a justified and justifiable concern that any of the horses trained by Fenton had been administered with anabolic steroids.
“The findings of this investigation have not given us a reason to believe that any of the Fenton-trained horses entered for Cheltenham have been administered with performance-enhancing substances.
"Therefore there was no basis, legal or otherwise, on which to prevent the horses from running."
Value At Risk is entered for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper next Wednesday while Dunguib holds entries in the Coral Cup and the County Hurdle.
Barry Connell, who owns a couple of Fenton trained horses that had been under consideration for Cheltenham, including The Tullow Tank, took both out of the festival races and said they will not run again until the case is resolved.
“While being respectful of the ongoing legal proceedings that Fenton remains subject to in Ireland, the team responsible for this investigation gathered all of the available evidence efficiently and effectively,” added Bittar. “This is now a matter for the Irish criminal justice system and the Irish Turf Club with which we have co-operated throughout.”