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Breeders' unrest over Punchestown air show

SOME OF Ireland's top studs have expressed major concerns about the threat posed by an air show that is scheduled to be staged at Punchestown racecourse on June 6 and 7.

Billed as "Airshow100 - a spectacular aeronautical celebration of 100 years of aviation in Ireland", the event will feature a series of aerobatic displays that will "mesmerise onlookers".

But such a billing inevitably sits uneasily with stud owners in an area which includes such major operations such as Gilltown, home of Sea The Stars, and Derrinstown.

It is understood that a number of studs in the Kildare area have objected to the local council about the air show, which has still to be given the official go ahead. Plans to stage a similar event at Punchestown in 2006 fell through due to a licence dispute with Kildare council. A spokesman for the council said yesterday: "We can't give any indication as to whether the application will be successful as we are still assessing it."

The Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association has stepped into the dispute and met with breeders and airshow organisers on February 23. As a result breeders requested a ‘trial run' which took place yesterday.  

One leading stud manager, who is based three miles from Punchestown, last night expressed concerns about the effectiveness of the testing, although Punchestown's general manager Dick O'Sullivan said: "As far as I'm concerned we had a trial run yesterday lunchtime to see if there was any detrimental effect and to date we have heard nothing back."

According to ITBA general manager Shane O'Dwyer: "The airshow organisers will have to assure breeders that there will be no risk to their bloodstock. We have to make sure there is a satisfactory solution forour members."

John Osborne, whose Tipper House Stud is close to Punchestown, said: "You'd expect an airshow to take place at an airport, so you can understand why people would be a bit nervous about it. It's not about standing in the way of progression; it's about the welfare of the horses.

"If we get a problem [ie injury to horses] you can't wind back the clock and undo it, and say 'that was a bad idea', it would be too late.  We deal with high value, slightly delicate creatures and blemishes cost a lot of money."

He added: "We lost a foal a few years back when there was a lot going on locally and you just wonder if the two things were linked. "

Osborne said that the breeding community was generally "supportive of Punchestown and aware how important it is to the industry" but said the proposed air show raised "realistic and genuine concerns about the wellbeing of the horses. "

Another manager of one of the area's top studs said; "Punchestown are only 15 minutes flying time away and they're planning an aerobatic team of nine jets who will be flying only 1,500 feet above Kildare.

"This would not be tolerated in Newmarket, Chantilly or Lexington so why should we tolerate it here? Punchestown didn't approach any of the studs before advertising the show. At this time of year we have nearly 300 horses at the stud, includingboarders. Each horse could react differently to the noise above them."





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