Fenton case forces Tank absence
The Tullow Tank will not run at Cheltenham as Philip Fenton's ongoing case for alleged possession of anabolic steroids was adjourned.
Although the Fenton 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 on Thursday, plans for the two-times Grade One winner are on hold until the issue has been resolved.
The Fenton-trained Volvalien, a possible candidate for the Cheltenham Champion Bumper, also runs in Connell's silks, but he, too, will be kept out of the firing line.
Owner Barry Connell said both horses will remain in training with Fenton.
He told Press Association Sport: "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.
The case was brought about by the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine following an inspection of Fenton's yard on January 18, 2012.
The County Tipperary trainer, 49, faces eight charges over the alleged possession of banned animal remedies, including steroids.
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 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%.
The trainer'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.
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."
Should he be found guilty, punishments range from a maximum fine of 5,000 euro to a six-month term of imprisonment.
The Irish Turf Club are also "watching with interest" as Pat Hughes was 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 on eight charges of possession of animal remedies following an inspection at the Irish Grand National-winning trainer's Fenniscourt yard in February 2012.
The case was adjourned until May 8.