Fenton 'innocent until proven guilty'

  • Last Updated: February 20 2014, 19:18 GMT

Gigginstown House Stud have no intention of replicating the decision of fellow owner Barry Connell to bench his Philip Fenton-trained runners until the handler's ongoing court case is resolved.

Last Instalment: Trained by Fenton for Gigginstown
Last Instalment: Trained by Fenton for Gigginstown

Fenton is facing eight charges over the alleged possession of banned animal remedies, including steroids, with his case adjourned until after the Cheltenham Festival following a brief hearing on Thursday.

Connell has ruled that with the "uncertainy" over the issue, he would sooner not run his leading light The Tullow Tank at the Festival and has also moved his Champion Bumper contender Volvalien out of the firing line.

Gigginstown, the reigning champion owners in Ireland, have leading Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup candidate Last Instalment in training with Fenton but they do not envisage any change of plan due to the handler's case.

Racing manager Eddie O'Leary said: "Philip Fenton is adamant he has done nothing wrong and we're happy that he has done nothing wrong.

"As it stands we have no problem running horses in Ireland or Britain.

"A man is innocent until proven guilty."

Fenton's case was adjourned until March 20 - nine days after the Festival is due to begin - following a brief hearing at Carrick-on-Suir District Court, prompting Connell to rethink his options for The Tullow Tank.

He said: "The case has been adjourned and due to the uncertainty surrounding the matter, I have decided the two horses I have in training with Philip won't run again until the matter is dealt with.

"Both horses will remain in training with Philip."

The Tullow Tank was prominent in the betting for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Festival on March 12 after two Grade One victories in December propelled to the forefront of the pecking order in that division.

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 case against Fenton was brought about by the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine following an inspection of the County Tipperary trainer's yard on January 18, 2012.

Declan Molan, solicitor for Fenton, told the court on Thursday morning that 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 was entered and Fenton did not attend.

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 charges in relation to alleged possession of Nitrotain and Ilium Stanabolic and prescription medicines including Engemycin 10%, Neomycin Penicillin and Marbocyl 10%.

The British Horseracing Authority is 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."

The Irish Turf Club's position is that they will not take any action until the case has been concluded and that Fenton can continue running his horses in the meantime.

Should he be found guilty, punishments range from a maximum fine of €5,000 to a six-month term of imprisonment.

The Turf Club also say they are "watching with interest" in the case of Pat Hughes, named as a second trainer facing court charges related to the alleged possession of substances contrary to regulations.

Hughes appeared in Carlow District Court on February 13 and his case was adjourned until May 8.

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