Philip Fenton enjoyed a welcome change of fortune at Naas yesterday as Real Steel claimed Grade Two honours in the Paddy Power Shops Better Value Novice Hurdle.
Fenton has been in the headlines in recent days after being charged with possessing unlicensed substances, including anabolic steroids, following a visit to his yard by the Department of Agriculture in January 2012, with a court case adjourned until next month.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned Real Steel was a 7-1 shot for what looked a competitive event and knuckled down well to beat Willie Mullins’ 13-8 favourite Vicky De L’Oasis by three and a quarter lengths. Minella Foru made late headway to grab third.
Fenton said: “He was the lowest-rated horse in the race and I didn’t think he was capable of winning.
“He’s improved and he jumped better today.
“He’s a huge horse and he’ll be a chaser for next season.”
Fenton suffered a blow last Thursday when owner Barry Connell announced star novice hurdler The Tullow Tank would not run at the Cheltenham Festival due to the ``uncertainty'' surrounding the court case, although he stressed his horses would remain with the County Tipperary trainer.
Gigginstown have Fenton’s Cheltenham Gold Cup third-favourite Last Instalment running in their colours, and speaking at Naas Michael O’Leary confirmed the Irish Hennessy hero remains on course for the Festival.
The Gigginstown supremo said: “Last Instalment will run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, providing the ground is not good or faster.
“He has glass legs and we wouldn’t risk him on fast ground.
“The timing of this whole episode is very unfortunate, coming so close to Cheltenham. It’s tough for Philip, but we feel duty-bound to support him.
“Whatever substances have been found that is a case for Philip to deal with, but there is no reason for us to doubt his innocence.
“Last Instalment won two Grade Ones as a novice and was tested every time.
“He was tested again after winning the Hennessy and has never had a problem.
“The horse was off for two years and wasn’t even in Philip’s yard during that time. He was either at Gigginstown or in Kent getting treatment on his leg. Horse Racing Ireland does a very good job with its testing programme.
“If it ever did come to light that any Gigginstown horse had been given any prohibited substances, we would not tolerate that.”
Asked whether he head heard from the British Horseracing Authority, O’Leary said: “I haven’t, but I am going to write them a letter in the next few days and let them know our horses are available for any testing that may be needed.”
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