By Mike Linn
PORTALES — A family residing about five miles east of Portales has been hosting horse races twice a month, contending it wants to keep Mexican tradition alive and boredom at bay.
But local law enforcement officials say tradition can only go as far as American law permits — and to that end Roosevelt County Sheriff Tom Gossett said much of what is happening at the races is illegal.
On Sunday, several government agencies met at Carlos and Jacinta Bordayo’s residence — 683 S. Roosevelt Road L — to shut down the horse racing operation: Sheriff’s officials warned the Bordayos about hosting races and charging an entry fee without having a business license; a New Mexico Livestock Board inspector gave guardians of all six horses at the race until Christmas to come up with ownership and health papers; and officials with the state’s environmental department shut down food concession stands.
Gossett said he believes there are even more infractions occurring at these races, including illegal gambling, and noted there have been several driving-under-the-influence arrests at or near the Bordayos’ residence.
Gossett said the Bordayos have been advertising the events on the radio. Admission to the horse races ranges between $7 and $10 per person, Gossett said.
“Somebody even told us that they’re just trying to make a living (by charging at these races),” Gossett said. “But our understanding is that there’s gambling, alcohol and drug use being observed.”
Jacinta Bordayo, speaking through a translator, said she is unaware of anybody using drugs during the events, but some people do make bets among themselves on the horse races.
“People don’t have anything to do (in Portales), so they come out to watch the horse races — it’s a Mexican tradition,” Jacinta said.
Jacinta Bordayo said the business license expired in September when she inherited the track from her father-in-law. She said the races have been going on for about two years, events that attract about 70 people. Gossett said over the summer more than 100 people attended the races.
Law enforcement and state officials said they began investigating the races after a feud at an Aug. 24 horse race escalated into a shooting several hours later at the Valle del Solle Apartments in Portales.
The alleged shooter, 45-year-old Jamie Banda Sr., and his son Jaime Banda Jr., 22, are still wanted on charges stemming from the incident that left one man critically wounded.
Coy Dictson, a livestock inspector for the New Mexico Livestock Board, said five people who claimed to own horses at Sunday’s event did not have proper proof of ownership. He said the people have until Dec. 25 to submit proper paperwork of ownership to inspectors. Another person at the race track on Sunday had illegally transported a horse from Texas without proper health papers, Dictson said. He too has until Christmas to show proof.
Each person faces misdemeanor charges and up to $500 in fines and 364 days in jail if they can’t provide ownership or health papers, Dictson said.
“I don’t like to cite somebody if they’ve got the proper paperwork,” Dictson said. “A lot of them say they have it so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, although I don’t think they do.”