Uncertainty over Fenton horses to go right to the wire

British Horseracing Authority test results not likely to be known until next week

Trainer Philip Fenton

Trainer Philip Fenton


Uncertainty over whether or not Philip Fenton will be allowed run horses at Cheltenham could continue to the eve of the festival with results of drug tests by the British Horseracing Authority on those horses entered for the festival by the Co Tipperary trainer not likely to be known until next week.

National Hunt racing’s flagship fixture starts two weeks from today and results on a series of tests set to be carried out by the BHA are not expected until next week, after which a decision will be made in relation to possible steps that could be taken to uphold public confidence in the relevant races at Cheltenham, and the sport in general.

After the adjournment of last week’s court case into allegations that unauthorised animal remedies, including anabolic steroids, were found at Fenton’s yard over two years ago, the BHA yesterday announced the dramatic step that they will travel to Ireland to interview the trainer and samples will be taken from Fenton’s Cheltenham entries.

Fenton currently has three possible Cheltenham starters including the Gigginstown Stud owned Last Instalment, an 8/1 third favourite for the Gold Cup.

Gigginstown’s owner, the Ryanair chief executive, Michael O’Leary, has already said he welcomes any test on his horses that the BHA may feel necessary. British racing’s ruling body is taking the step after consulting with the Turf Club. Under BHA rules, they are entitled to test any horse entered for races in Britain. Horse Club officials will accompany the drug testing team.

Public confidence
The BHA chief executive Paul Bittar said yesterday it is vital to preserve public confidence in racing and added: “The testing of the Fenton-trained horses will form a part of the decision making process as to how best to achieve this objective. Any development or set of circumstances which brings the integrity of our sport into question is of considerable concern.”
The BHA have agreed with the Turf Club that samples from Fenton’s Cheltenham entries, which also include Dunguib (entered in both the Coral Cup and the County Hurdle) and the Champion Bumper possible, Value At Risk, will be collected and fast-track testing will take in Newmarket.

It is intended that blood samples will be taken and also hair samples. Substances can be detected in hair samples for a greater period of time than is the case with either blood or urine. The process involves removing hairs from close to the skin which can reveal detail of a horse’s health.

Michael O’Leary’s brother, Eddie, responded to the prospect of the BHA visit by saying “We wrote to the BHA to ask them to come and test Philips’s horses so it is what we wanted. We have absolutely nothing to hide and hopefully this will help clear a few things up.”

After last week’s court adjournment, owner Barry Connell stated the two horses he has in training with Fenton, including The Tullow Tank who had been a major festival contender, won’t run again until the case is resolved.

It is understood negative samples would not automatically mean the horses would be allowed run at Cheltenham, should other issues arise as part of the BHA trip.