Thursday 10 March 2011

Casino venue could attract Breeders' Cup, says O'Brien

THE MULTIMILLION dollar Breeders’ Cup horse racing fixture could leave the United States and come to Ireland if a planned sporting and leisure complex goes ahead, said racehorse trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Mr O’Brien and his wife Anne-Marie yesterday expressed support for the €460 million “Tipperary Venue”, which would include a hotel and casino, racetrack and 15,000-person capacity indoor entertainment venue.

The couple made a submission to the second day of an oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála into plans by businessman Richard Quirke to develop the multifaceted project on an 800-acre site at Two-Mile Borris near Thurles. Mr O’Brien trains horses at Ballydoyle stables near Cashel in Co Tipperary.

The O’Briens said the organisers of the Breeders’ Cup – the self-styled world championship of flat racing, which has been held each November since 1984 – had expressed interest in staging the two-day fixture in Europe.

No European venue currently has the necessary grass and artificial surfaces to stage what is the world’s most valuable race meeting but, said Ms O’Brien, “The Tipperary Venue will be the first European track capable of hosting a Breeders’ Cup meeting.”

She said the development would be a sustainable and environmentally friendly addition to Irish horse racing.

“The proposed development is not dependent on grants. This is a wonderful opportunity for racing to create something unique and unrivalled and serve as a flagship racecourse for the industry,” she said.

Coolmore Stud in Fethard, Co Tipperary, has also thrown its weight behind the proposed development, as has the Irish Greyhound Board. Horse Sport Ireland chief executive Damian McDonald told the hearing the venue could also host the World Equestrian Games.

Mr Quirke, a former garda whose business interests include Dr Quirkey’s Good Time Emporium amusement arcade in Dublin, wants to build a 500-bed hotel and casino, golf course, greyhound racing circuit and equestrian centre as well as turf and all-weather horse racing tracks on the site.

The project, which includes a replica of the White House in memory of its Kilkenny-born designer, James Hoban, secured planning permission from North Tipperary County Council last October. However, following appeals by local residents and An Taisce, An Bord Pleanála announced a public hearing.

Concerns include the volume of traffic that would be generated by the venue, as well as helicopter activity, noise and other emissions. An Taisce questioned the viability of elements of the scheme and said under current legislation a casino would not be permitted.

Local resident Pat Blake told the hearing he was opposed to the project because of the casino element. “My concern would be the gambling one. I think there would be untold damage done,” he said.

The hearing continues today.

Irish Times

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