'not shades' | 

Drivers in near miss head-on crash as sulky racers go full gallop

Eamon DillonSunday World

ANIMAL welfare activists are calling for a coordinated approach by gardaí and the Road Safety Authority to curb illegal sulky races on Irish roads.

The danger posed to innocent motorists was again highlighted this weekend during a race in Co Kildare as vehicles narrowly avoided collisions.

The race starts off on the Castledermot to Kilcullen road near Ballitore with one driver being heard to remark on camera “that’s not shades [gardaí]” as a vehicle with high-vis markings drives past.

Filmed from a vehicle driving on the opposite hard shoulder against on-coming cars, the vehicles of the following entourage are seen driving just inches apart.

On two occasions during the three-minute race on-coming motorists end-up driving between vehicles on the hard-shoulder and the other vehicles across both lanes.

Spectators are also visible sitting out of the car windows following the spectacle as the ponies ran at full speed on the hard tarmac road.

The race was highly anticipated on social pages which were full of praise for the winning horse and was organised well in advance.

An animal welfare campaigner tod the Sunday World this week that both the RSA and gardaí have been called on to run a campaign to get the sulky races off public roads.

Dangerous sulky races in which on-coming drivers were confronted with on-coming sulkies and spectators in cars stretched across the road lanes are a regular feature at weekends.

Sources say gardaí in Ashbourne have the races away from a stretch of M£ while the N7 near Saggart has been used less often since a high-profile race there two years made national headlines.

Last year the Sunday World revealed how one of the most reckless sulky races caught on camera took place on N20 near Croom and County Limerick after 11am last Saturday morning.

At least a dozen vehicles with sulky race followers were three abreast on the south-bound carriage and north-bound hard shoulder despite the busy traffic on the main road between Limerick and Cork city.

One innocent motorist narrowly avoided a collision after breaking hard with the chaos surrounding the race too much for even one of the sulky racers who pulled up his horse.

One man standing on the overpass bridge to watch the race can be heard to say: “The boys were told not to overtake, there’s going to be war here now.”

People with connections to serious organised crime gangs dominate the illegal road races both here and in the UK.

Thousands of euros are believed to be gambled on the races and trotting ponies change hands for thousands of euro as well.

One sulky-racing insider previously told the Sunday World ponies used in the illegal road races are regularly given dangerous performance enhancing drugs.

Animal welfare activists also say the sport is cruel and horses used in the races often suffer injuries which are treated with substances banned from official versions of equine sports.

“Basically, their bones are soft and they are running them on hard surfaces. There are times they would be out training and would not always be shod.”

Substances known to be used include anabolic steroids, illegal painkillers and EPO growth hormones.

It is not only the horse in some cases which appear to have been using drugs with one video of sulky crash in which it is suggested the driver was using cocaine.

After the driver falls off on a narrow country road, closing missing an on-coming car, a voice in the following car is heard to remark: “F**king r*****d. That’s the coke, giving him drugs..”

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