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 yesterday, 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.
Connell said both horses will remain in training with Fenton.
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.”
Ladbrokes meanwhile are refunding stakes on The Tullow Tank for Cheltenham.
The Tullow Tank had been prominent in the betting for both the Supreme Novices’ and Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle races prior to Barry Connell declaring that he will not run at the festival.
David Williams of Ladbrokes said: “We feel this represents an exceptional set of circumstances that appears to be unravelling in double quick time.
“Whilst there is no obligation to make any refunds under ante-post rules, we believe it be an extremely unusual situation and one from which our customers deserve some protection.”
Ladbrokes’ last significant refund came in April last year when a number of Godolphin horses, including 1000 Guineas long-time favourite Certify, were removed from ante-post lists after the Mahmood Al Zarooni drug scandal.
Last night Gigginstown House Stud said they have no intention of replicating Connell’s decision.
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.”
* Leading Grand National candidates Teaforthree and Triolo D’Alene are among 98 entries announced yesterday in the Festival Handicap Chase on the opening day of the meeting on March 11.
Smart novices like Annacotty, Green Flag, Many Clouds and Sam Winner have the option along with Holywell, Tap Night, Shutthefrontdoor and Alfie Sherrin.
Also on the opening day is the Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase for which the likes of Manyriverstocross and Indian Castle have been entered.
The Coral Cup has attracted a mammoth 136 contenders with David Pipe’s French imports Dell ’Arca and Un Temps Pour Tout under consideration along with Dunguib, Far West and last year’s winner Medinas.
Course specialists Balthazar King and Big Shu are among 37 entries for the Glenfarclass Cross Country Chase with the likes of Quantitativeeasing, Diamond Harry and Hey Big Spender also possibles.
The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle will obviously change shape as plans for the JCB Triumph Hurdle firm up, but 75 have been given the option including Grade One winner Guitar Pete, with the three that finished behind him – Tiger Roll, Plinth and Ivan Grozny – all engaged as well.
John Quinn has put in Pearl Castle, Rutherglen, Aurore D’Estruval and Forced Family Fun.
A total of 70 have been entered for the Pertemps Final, which runners have had to qualify for by finishing in the first eight of any of the races of the series.
Fingal Bay, Top Wood and Josies Orders are three who won qualifiers along the way.
The Byrne Group Plate has 83 entries with Don Cossack given the option by Gordon Elliott.
Tranquil Sea and Time For Rupert, first and second in a veterans’ race at Doncaster on Wednesday, may renew rivalry in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup and feature among 110 possibles.
Captain Cee Bee and Cinders And Ashes, two former winner of the Supreme, are the class acts among 117 in the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle.
The biggest entry was received for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle, with David Pipe having 15 engaged in the race named in honour of his father. Ballynagour and Doctor Harper could be joined by the likes of Lac Fontana and Splash Of Ginge.
The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual has 66 possibles with last year’s winner Alderwood, smart novice Claret Cloak and Tony Martin’s winner of the County Hurdle last year, Ted Veale, in the reckoning.