Tullow Tank twist in Fenton case
Owner Barry Connell has said that The Tullow Tank will not run at the Cheltenham Festival after it was confirmed that a court case involving trainer, Phillip Fenton, has been adjourned until March 20.
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Connell told the Racing Post: "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."
The Tullow Tank was one of the leading contenders for the Neptune Novices' Hurdle, having shown his credentials with victory in two Grade Ones in December.
Fenton had been due to appear at Carrick-on-Suir District Court on Thursday to answer charges brought about by the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine following an inspection of his yard on January 18, 2012.
The County Tipperary trainer, 49, has been charged with possession of anabolic steroids and other unlicensed substances, but the case will not now be heard until after the Cheltenham Festival, which begins on March 11, at the request of Fenton's legal team.
Fenton's stock has been especially high of late following the exploits of Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Last Instalment, a superb winner of the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown, and the 2009 Champion Bumper winner Dunguib, who was victorious at Navan last Sunday.
However, Connell's decision to withdraw The Tullow Tank, will put some pressure on other owners in Fenton's yard to make their own decisions.
Bookmakers Sky Bet announced that they would refund stakes placed in win or each-way singles on the horse for either the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle or the Neptune as soon as the horse is officially taken out of both contests.
Sky Bet spokesman Michael Shinners said: "This is an unusual situation, but it's the right thing to do to give punters another chance of backing the winner of either race rather than losing their money in unfortunate circumstances."
A number of other bookmakers also offered similar concessions - punters are advised to check with their individual firms of details of what is to be offered.
The Irish Courts Service confirmed in a summons notice that Fenton had been served with a series of charges in relation to animal remedies.
Should he be found guilty, punishments range from a maximum fine of €5,000 to a six-month term of imprisonment.
The British Horseracing Authority say they are liaising with the Irish Turf Club to gain as "much information as is currently available" about the Fenton case.
A statement read: "BHA are currently in possession of little in the way of information regarding the charges that Philip Fenton is facing.
"We are in contact with the Irish Turf Club with a view to gathering as much information as is currently available.
"It would be inappropriate to comment further or to speculate about this issue until we are in possession of the relevant facts."
Declan Molan, solicitor for Fenton, told the court he wished to make submissions "in relation to the summonses themselves".
Judge Terence Finn granted four weeks to allow submissions to be written and filed with the prosecution.
"If the submissions affect this court's jurisdiction to deal with this matter, that is a matter that has to be taken in advance," the judge said.
The court was told 12 to 15 witnesses are expected to be called in the case, including one witness from France.
No plea has been entered and Fenton did not attend the brief hearing.
John Ryan, junior counsel for the state, objected to the adjournment.
He said: "It's only very recently we have heard anything about this. It's a very vague and nebulous thing, I say, to prevent the hearing of the matter that may or may not go to the jurisdiction of the case."
Submissions from the defence must be submitted one week before the case is mentioned again in the District Court, the judge said.
Fenton faces eight charges in relation to alleged possession of Nitrotain and Ilium Stanabolic and prescription medicines including Engemycin 10%, Neomycin Penicillin and Marbocyl 10%.