Reckless racers | 

Ireland's illegal sulky racing scene dominated by thugs with gangland connections

Limerick criminal, Kinahan cartel foot soldier and convicted UK animal abuser among illegal racing scene in Ireland

Sulky racers

Eamon Dillon

IRELAND'S underground sulky racing scene is dominated by people with serious criminal connections, but thousands of fans religiously follow the dozens of illegal road races every month.

A leading figure in the infamous 'Monkey Gang' has an interest in a horse which featured in a race video on the M3 motorway in Dublin last weekend.

Kinahan cartel 'foot soldier' Nathan 'Biggie' Little is another enthusiast, as is a convicted Limerick thug closely connected to the city's dominant gang.

UK-based Jimmy Price is also a regular racer both here and in England and recently posed for a photo posted on social media with the Limerick gangster alongside a favoured horse.

Nathan Little

Last September, garda raids in Limerick targeting members of the McCarthy faction saw 10 horses seized along with horse boxes and €550,00 in cash.

The reckless races usually see two sulky racers compete against each other while a following entourage of cars and jeeps block the traffic from behind.

A sulky race

Spectators in several recent videos are seen hanging out of windows, sunroofs and from the back of open vans as the trotters reach speeds over 50kph over a mile-long race.

Favourite locations for racing in Ireland include the Croom bypass in Limerick, the M3 motorway near Blanchardstown as well as locations close to Athy in Kildare and Thurles in Tipperary.

Last weekend, video footage emerged of a race on the M3 in which the Dublin-bound carriage was effectively blocked by the sulky racers and their supporters who drove behind them.

Spectators and participants turn up from all over Ireland to take part in the races, usually held at first light on Saturday and Sunday mornings when traffic is light.

Sulky racing

Trotting horses imported from the US and also bred here in Ireland and the UK can change hands for €20,000, while stallion stud fees are offered at €500 to €600 a mare.

Followers offer bets over social media on which horse will win, with offers of a €500 bet not uncommon.

Animal rights activists say many of the horses are trained too young and running them at high speed on tarmac roads is both cruel and dangerous.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has previously called for an outright ban on sulky road-racing.

The ISPCA regularly rescues and treats horses and ponies abandoned and injured from racing.

Two men were each fined €150 last January for attending a sulky race in Dunkerrin, Co Laois, although that was for breach of Covid restrictions during the pandemic.

In December last year, a man was banned from driving for two years after being seen by gardai forcing oncoming cars to take evasive action as he followed a sulky race in Tipperary.

The involvement of serious criminals in illegal road-races is nothing new, with Limerick mobster Christy Keane and Troy Jordan caught on video at a race more than 20 years ago.

More recently, in 2017, the Criminals Assets Bureau (CAB) discovered a horse which had been bought and imported from Australia for €18,000 while targeting Ballyfermot gangster David Reilly.

CAB found a horse belonging to David Reilly

It was heard that in September 2015 a sulky racing horse named 'Ants in his Pants' was bought from Australia and transported to Ireland.

The horse was bought in auction for a record price, and investigations revealed Reilly as co-owner of the animal.

Reilly and his gangland mentor Derek 'Dee Dee' O'Driscoll are suspected by gardai of having extorted more than €500,000 by providing 'security' to building sites that had been attacked by their minions.

Jimmy Price, who is based in Kent, has convictions for animal cruelty as well as for violence and has served time in prison.

In January 2020, he was convicted of stabbing a deer and also of causing unnecessary suffering to a horse and two dogs.

Rowan Morton, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said at the time: "It's very difficult to even explain the gravity of what the video shows. There are a group of four males that can be seen with a deer. Jimmy Price is seen stabbing the deer multiple times in the throat while others shout at him to stab it.

"It's very graphic and upsetting, there was no doubt that animal was caused significant pain and suffering."

Jimmy Price

He was recently pictured with a Limerick criminal, who cannot be named at the moment for legal reasons, who is directly connected to one of the city's warring underworld factions.

Nathan 'Biggie' Little has been identified by the CAB in the High Court as being a low-level member of the Byrne Organised Crime Group.

He regularly posts photos and videos of trotting ponies on social media.

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