CHELTENHAM-bound racehorse trainer Philip Fenton has had his case before the district court on charges of possession of banned animal drugs including an anabolic steroid adjourned.
The case against the top Irish racehorse trainer, whose well-known stable stars including the Gold Cup hope for next month’s Cheltenham festival, Last Instalment, Dunguib and The Tullow Tank, was mentioned before Judge Terence Finn in Carrick on Suir court in Co Tipperary.
The charges were lodged against the 49-year-old trainer after a visit from Department of Agriculture officials to the trainer’s yard at Garryduff, South Lodge, Carrick on Suir, more than two years ago on January 18, 2012.
Mr Fenton's solicitor Declan Molan requested an adjournment to allow for submissions in relation to issues on the summonses.
The judge said if the submissions affect this court's jurisdiction to deal with the matter then it would have to be "taken in advance" of any prosecution.
John Ryan, counsel for the State, argued that he did not believe it went to "the jurisdiction of the court". He said there were 12 to 15 witnesses, including one to come from France, for the case.
The judge adjourned it until March 20, with the written submissions to be lodged by Mr Fenton's legal team seven days in advance. Mr Fenton did not appear in court and was represented by his solicitor.
Among the banned animal substances allegedly found on Mr Fenton’s yard is Nitrotain, which is designed to improve horses' muscle mass, strength and stamina. The anabolic steroid was at the centre of high-profile cases which have rocked the racing industry in the UK.
Two of the eight alleged offences relate to the possession of Nitrotain and Ilium Stanabolic at Garryduff on January 18, 2012, which is contrary to the European Communities (Control of Animal Remedies and Their Residues) regulations, 2009.
A further three offences relate to possession of designated prescription-only medicines, Engemycin 10pc, Neomycin Penicillin and Betamoz LA, without prescription relating to the animals in his control on the same date.
The other three charges state that he possessed Nitrotain, Ilium Stanabolic and Marbocyl 10pc, in respect of which there was no animal remedies authorisation in force.
Horseracing’s regulatory body, the Turf Club, has said they would be paying close attention to the developments in the case.
A person, upon being found guilty of committing one of the offences, is liable on summary conviction to a maximum fine of €5,000 or to a prison term of up to six months, or both.
Mr Fenton is a well-known trainer on both sides of the Irish Sea after first carving out a career in National Hunt racing as a jockey. He has notched up winner’s at Cheltenham’s famous track nestled in the Cotswold’s as both a jockey and a trainer.
He’ll have one of the strongest Cheltenham teams taking the boats bound for the UK festival next month.
Irish hopes have been pinned on Last Instalment, owned by Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, who is likely to contest the Gold Cup - who recently shot first past the post in the Grade One Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday week after being absent from the track for two years.
Dunguib, now bound for the Coral Cup, has also buoyed hopes recently with a strong Grade Two Boyne Hurdle victory at Navan on Sunday. Another horse with a strong following is The Tullow TAnk who looks set to contest the Neptune Investment Management Hurdle.
It was in 1996 that Fenton rode his first winner at Cheltenham when he landed the National Hunt Chase with Loving Around.