BHA steps in to prevent Phoenix runner taking part at Ayr

Another twist in the Phoenix Thoroughbreds saga came on Thursday when the BHA took action to prevent the controversial racing organisation from having an Irish-trained runner in Friday's feature contest at Ayr.

The BHA only last week barred Phoenix from having runners in Britain, suspending its racing accounts to ensure no British-trained Phoenix horse could be entered in a race.

That move, however, did not have jurisdiction over any international-trained Phoenix horses entered in Britain and based in countries where they are permitted to race, including in Ireland.

After the Fozzy Stack-trained Back To Brussels, a recent median auction winner at Cork, on Wednesday featured among 17 declarations for the feature Listed Arran Scottish Sprint EBF Fillies' Stakes on day two of the Ayr Gold Cup meeting, the BHA took swift action to address the matter.

The declaration, with Stack booking Shane Gray to partner the 102-rated three-year-old, was made just six days on from Phoenix being barred from having runners in Britain.

A BHA statement read: "Phoenix has announced its intention to exit from British racing. However, last week action was taken by the BHA to suspend all of Phoenix Thoroughbreds administration accounts in Britain, with the effect that its registered ownership entities in Britain are not permitted to make entries or declarations here or overseas.

“Our jurisdiction does not extend to ownership accounts in international racing authorities and therefore entries are still technically permitted from overseas runners in those jurisdictions that have not taken similar action to suspend Phoenix accounts. This is why the entry and declaration of Back To Brussels was originally accepted.

"However, following the declaration of the horse the BHA contacted Phoenix Thoroughbreds and all parties agreed that the horse should be withdrawn from this race."

Back To Brussels, who was bought privately by Phoenix after making a winning juvenile debut at Navan last year, finished second in the Listed Sweet Mimosa Stakes at Cork in July and is the only Phoenix-owned horse to have a run for Stack.

France Galop took similar action last month having banned Phoenix-owned runners, with the regulator cancelling two entries for the Archie Watson-trained and Phoenix Ladies Syndicate-owned Jojo Rabbit, including in the Listed Prix de la Vallee d'Auge at Deauville the following day.

Phoenix Thoroughbreds released the following statement after the BHA barred the group from having runners in Britain.

It read: "Following Phoenix Thoroughbreds' recent decision to leave UK racing, the BHA has confirmed that there will be a temporary suspension on our runners in the UK whilst a review of our operations is conducted.

"We are in direct contact with the BHA and are working with them very closely during this review period and see it as a chance to offer transparency after recent damaging media speculation in the UK.

"Phoenix Thoroughbreds have been proactively communicating with the BHA over their intention to place a temporary stop on our accounts.

"We would like to make it clear again there have been no charges levelled against Phoenix or its CEO Amer Abdulaziz."

Phoenix has been in the headlines since November when founder Amer Abdulaziz Salman was alleged in a New York court to be a key money-launderer for the fake $4 billion cryptocurrency scam OneCoin, then allegedly stole €100 million from the fraudsters. Those allegations have been categorically denied by Abdulaziz.

The allegations emerged during the trial of former lawyer Mark Scott, who was convicted of laundering $400m in OneCoin funds using his bogus Fenero Funds, and subsequent Racing Post reports showed Phoenix's Luxembourg fund, lauded as the "world's first regulated thoroughbred fund", was never regulated and never functioned as a fund at all.

The group's former bloodstock adviser Dermot Farrington and former head of equine Tom Ludt walked away from Phoenix after the allegations, with the last-named taking a termination agreement in June citing concerns over allegations that money from OneCoin may have been invested in Phoenix.

Trainers Bob Baffert and Martyn Meade have also cut ties with Phoenix, who continue to have horses in training in Ireland, the US and Australia, where they intend to continue to invest in racing and bloodstock and have enjoyed top-level triumphs with Farnan and the now-retired Loving Gaby.