Philip Fenton left to sweat on Cheltenham hopes
With the Cheltenham Festival a mere 10 days away, the participation of horses trained by Philip Fenton is still very much in doubt.
Fenton had a winner at Thurles yesterday, 13-8 favourite Whisper Rock triumphing in the final race.
The British Horseracing Authority has confirmed that officials visited Fenton's stables in Tipperary on Wednesday to carry out tests on the trainer's Cheltenham entries, including Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup hope Last Instalment.
The BHA also interviewed Fenton, who is set to appear at a County Tipperary court on March 20 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.
Following consultation with the Irish Turf Club, it had been agreed that samples from Fenton's horses will be collected by the BHA and fast-track testing will take place at HFL Sport Science, Newmarket, with the results of the tests available next week.
It is intended that blood and hair samples are taken for testing, with substances able to be detected in hair samples for a greater period of time than is the case with either blood or urine.
It is understood negative samples would not automatically mean the horses would be allowed to run at Cheltenham, should other issues arise.
The Irish Courts Service served a summons notice that Fenton has 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 case was adjourned last Thursday after which one of Fenton's leading owners Barry Connell announced he would not run any of his horses based with the trainer at Cheltenham, headed by dual Grade One-winning novice hurdler The Tullow Tank.
The BHA is putting greater resources into anti-doping measures after a review of its control procedures in December.
That followed the handing out of bans to two high-profile trainers for doping offences during 2013 – Mahmood Al-Zarooni was banned for eight years and Gerard Butler for five years.
"The events of 2013 highlighted the need to increase the deterrent against the misuse of drugs and medication, and in particular anabolic steroids," commented BHA chief executive Paul Bittar.
* ULSTER great AP McCoy has been invited by Jonjo O'Neill to ride the unbeaten More Of That in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival rather than rival challenger At Fishers Cross.
The two horses are separated by a point in the sponsors' betting behind 5-4 favourite Big Buck's with At Fishers Cross, who is trained by Rebecca Curtis, a 5-1 shot from O'Neill's contender at 6-1.
Both are owned by JP McManus and trainer O'Neill said: "I would imagine AP will ride At Fishers Cross but he will come to ride work this week and next week and make his mind up. I hope he rides ours."
Jason Maguire won on Kings Bandit at Ludlow to continue his hopeless pursuit of McCoy, who will be crowned champion jockey for an incredible 19th successive time in April.