Bobby Zen

The non-profit Puerto Rico Horse Owners Association, Inc. (PRHOA) has sued the Gaming Commission of the Government of Puerto Rico and the corporate owners of Camarero Race Track in United States federal court, seeking $500,000 in horse-injury damages because of allegedly unsafe track conditions that the PRHOA is claiming have persisted at Puerto Rico’s only Thoroughbred venue for nearly a decade.

The PRHOA also claimed in its Apr. 26 lawsuit in United States District Court (District of Puerto Rico) that despite several years of official complaints lodged to address the alleged safety issues, the gaming commission and track management have purportedly ignored the horse owners’ repeated calls for safety upgrades.

In addition, the PRHOA wants a federal judge to compel Camarero and the commission “to immediately grant access” to John Passero, the noted track-safety consultant who years ago served as the track superintendent at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course. Passero was recently retained by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association as a consultant when problems emerged at those two tracks.

The PRHOA is asking for Passero to be furnished with whatever historical track safety study and maintenance data the commission and Camarero have compiled, “as well as all expert reports on the Racetrack by experts issued during the years 2019 to 2024,” so that Passero can “submit a report with his recommendations on the condition of the Racetrack.”

Neither the commission nor Camarero management could be reached for comment prior to deadline for this story. The defendants have several weeks to file a legal response.

The PRHOA’s suit alleges that Camarero, “since 2016 suffers from dangerous conditions…in particular [in] its final stretch in the mile and one sixteenth area…due to having consistency problems, unevenness, problems of humidity, lack of compaction and lack of effective maintenance, among others.”

The complaint cited Camarero’s need to cancel after one race on a dry track Mar. 16, after two races on a muddy track Apr. 21, and the loss of training hours Apr. 22 as all being related to the unresolved safety issues.

The complaint stated that, “On Feb. 18, 2022, (over twenty-six months ago), PRHOA filed an official complaint with the Executive Director regarding the conditions of the Racetrack, which was assigned to administrative judge José Martínez Ramos, who after some administrative proceedings improperly determined that he lacked jurisdiction to consider the First Complaint, because allegedly the Executive Director had commenced a parallel investigation on the Racetrack and that he understood that the results of that so-called investigation should be completed first.

“In the meantime, the conditions of the Racetrack continued to deteriorate, further endangering the safety and welfare of the riders and the Thoroughbreds working out in the mornings and racing during official races at Hipódromo Camarero.

“With no results from the alleged secret investigation by the Executive Director on the Racetrack and its condition continuing to deteriorate due to its improper maintenance and conditioning, and the lack of the proper equipment to do so, further placing in jeopardy the safety of the riders and Thoroughbreds working out and racing thereat, and in view of Camarero’s lackadaisical attitude and hands down modus operandi…almost two years from the First Complaint, PRHOA on Jan. 12, 2024, filed a second complaint with the Commission as to the condition of the Racetrack,” the filing stated.

“In the Second Complaint, PRHOA underscored that, almost two years after the First Complaint, the results of the purported investigation by the Executive Director had not been revealed, understanding that the same had not been concluded or conducted,” the complaint stated.

In order to fix the alleged problems, the PRHOA wants “a soil study, inspection of the Racetrack’s base, the composition of the sand serving as cushion over its base and its depth, the Racetrack’s drainage system and the use of the proper equipment.”

On Apr. 2, 2024, the PRHOA filed an “urgent petition” with the gaming commission asking for Passero to be allowed to commence that sort of investigatory work, the complaint stated.

But, according to the court filing, “To make things worse on Apr. 22, 2024, making evident its obstinacy and disregard for the well-being of the riders and Thoroughbreds in use of the Racetrack, Camarero answered the Urgent Petition [by] sustaining that since it is a private entity it doesn’t have any legal obligation compelling it to share the requested information with third parties and that the revealing reports are confidential in nature and their disclosure is not supported by any legal provision requiring its submittal to PRHOA.”

The cancelled races, “coupled with the injuries suffered by the Thoroughbreds owned by the members of PRHOA, have caused them substantial damages, estimated [at] not less than $500,000 due to the resulting loss of purse money and of their investment in the purchase of their racing stock,” the PRHOA complaint stated.

“The acts and omissions of the Commission and Camarero [allegedly constitute] illegal violations of PRHOA and its members, civil rights, all in violation of the Fourth, Fifth, Eight, Ninth and Fourteen Amendments of the United States and 42 USC section 1983,” the PRHOA’s complaint stated.

“Said acts and omissions are negligent or intentional, grossly negligent or intentional and taken in reckless disregard and deliberate indifference for the rights of PRHOA and its members,” the complaint stated.

The post Horse Owners Sue Camarero, Puerto Rico Commission over ‘Negligent, Intentional’ Indifference to Track Safety appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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