Owner withdraws festival contenders due to 'uncertainty'
PHILIP Fenton mingled with trainers and owners at Clonmel Racecourse as it emerged his hopes for The Tullow Tank to shine at Cheltenham had been dashed.
He refused to comment after one of his owners dramatically decided the novice hurdler would not run at the Cheltenham Festival, from March 11-14, due to "uncertainty" surrounding the ongoing court case.
"I'll tell you what, I've very little to say about it," he said, on the decision by owner Barry Connell who was also at the afternoon race meeting.
The Fenton case has been adjourned until March 20 – days after the Cheltenham meet comes to a close.
Mr Connell said the plans for the two-time Grade One winner had been placed on hold until the matter was resolved.
"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," Mr Connell said of the stable star The Tullow Tank and Volvalien, who was a possible runner in the Cheltenham Champion Bumper.
He added: "Both horses will remain in training with Philip."
Betting was already strong for The Tullow Tank – named after Ireland rugby player Sean O'Brien – who was third favourite for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the four-day festival on March 12.
Yesterday, the Fenton-trained Desertmore Stream, running in the colours of the leading Irish jumps owners Gigginstown House Stud, placed second in the Clonmel Maiden Hurdle.
Afterwards Mr Fenton spent several minutes chatting in the winner's enclosure with Gigginstown's racing manager Eddie O'Leary.
Mr O'Leary said plans were still on track for Gigginstown's Gold Cup hope Last Instalment, who is in training in Fenton's Carrick-on-Suir yard.
Mr O'Leary – a brother of Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary who owns Gigginstown – said Last Instalment had been tested after his win in the Hennessy Gold Cup Chase at Leopardstown.
"You are innocent until proven guilty, we will let justice take its course," he said.
Mr O'Leary said that "unfortunately it will be a talking point" at Cheltenham.
"We wouldn't agree or let any of our horses be doped – we are a very clean organisation, which is probably obvious. We don't train them, we own them.
"We run them, we are very clean, we wouldn't tolerate any horse being doped."
Bookies including Paddy Power, Betfair and Boylesports are refunding advance bets on The Tullow Tank.