MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - A jockey is suing the Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens after she says she was seriously injured by another jockey during a race.
The incident happened June 27 as Zarella Ore was riding her horse, Pop's Gem during the sixth race of the day. Ore says fellow jockey, Jocy Gomez, came around the bend riding on the horse, Desirable Lady.
Ore claims Gomez forced her horse to the inside rail where Ore's 1,000-pound horse fell and landed on her 105-pound frame.
"Gomez driving her horse into the pack and you actually can see the horse trying to avoid it, trying to turn his head away because he doesn't want to go into the pack, but Gomez is driving the horse into the pack," says attorney Douglas Ede.
Ore was airlifted to the hospital with a brain injury and fractured bones. Ore would spend days in an induced coma and weeks in the hospital recovering.
Ore's horse was not injured in the fall and has since retired.
Her attorneys argue the spill that almost killed her was no accident, and say Gomez targeted their client.
Gomez is a well-known female jockey in South Florida. Ore's attorneys characterize her as a cutthroat reckless rider and a jockey-room bully, consumed with jealousy in the competitive world of horse racing.
"As far as we know there are only three female jockeys that routinely race in South Florida at Gulfstream and Calder," says attorney Joseph Madalon. "Two of them are Latina, Jocelyne and Zarrela, both of them hail from Peru. As Zarrela started to make her climb and become more successful in the ranks there definitely became jealousy."
Ore is suing the race course for being negligent in failing to prevent the incident. Her attorneys argue Calder leadership knew Gomez had threatened their client in the past. In fact, police had been called to investigate a spat between the two in the hours before the race.
Gomez finished that race in second place, but after review was disqualified and moved to last place. She also received a 15-day suspension for careless riding.
Calder records provided to Local 10 News by Ore's attorneys show May 10, Gomez was suspended for three days for careless riding while astride Spectacular Me. The Calder Casino and Race Course Stewards Rulings state Gomez, shortly after the break, "while astride Spectacular Me, coming in so as to interfere with, impede and intimidate the horse Dreamcastle". After reviewing videotape replay, "The Stewards had made the suspension under Rule Riding Infractions #A, failure to maintain a straight course, House Rules governing the conduct of racing."
On April 14, Gomez was fined by the Calder Casino & Race Course Stewards $50 "for not handling her business in a proper manner, failing to heed instructions from the Starter."
On March 24, Calder Casino & Race Course Stewards fined Gomez $250.00 "for creating a disturbance in the Ladies Jockey Quarters, Sunday, 9th March, 2014."
Ore's attorneys are seeking unspecified amount of damages.
The lawsuit claims as a result of Calder's negligence that Ore "fell to the ground and suffered grievous bodily injury and resulting pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and/or aggravation of a pre-existing condition, expense of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment, dental care and treatment, and loss of earnings, loss of the ability to earn money, loss of earning capacity, impairment of working ability and/or lost income. The losses are either permanent within a reasonable degree of medical probability or continuing, and plaintiff will suffer the losses in the future."
The attorneys are asking for a trial by jury on all issues.
Ore's attorneys did not specify what injuries she's still dealing with but said she may never be able to ride a horse again. They said she and her 8-year-old daughter are being cared for by Ore's uncle.
Gomez was not named in the suit. Over the phone, she told Local 10 News reporter Christina Vazquez that she denies the allegations and claims Ore was the aggressor.
Calder said it will not comment on ongoing litigation.
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