The Pearly Gates

Illegal horse racing track was a plush operation: Backyard visions replaced by a high-class reality

Illegal horse racing track a plush operation: High class not backyard

Rancho El Herradero Training Center track
Nine people — including 6 law enforcement officers — were arrested Saturday for operating an illegal horse track. Photo courtesy of KHOU Houston/Channel 11/Facebook
Rancho El Herradero Training Center officers in cour
The nine suspects appeared in court on Monday, facing charges of operating an unlicensed race track. Photo courtesy of KHOU Houston/Channel 11/Facebook
Rancho El Herradero Training Center track concessions stand
Located in Crosby, El Herradero was no backyard operation . . . just look at this concession stand. Photo courtesy of KHOU Houston/Channel 11/Facebook
Rancho El Herradero Training Center sign
Signs around the ranch call El Harradero a "training center." Photo courtesy of KHOU Houston/Channel 11/Facebook
Rancho El Herradero Training Center track
Rancho El Herradero Training Center officers in cour
Rancho El Herradero Training Center track concessions stand
Rancho El Herradero Training Center sign
Rancho El Herradero Training Center starting gate

Texas Rangers raided a secret horse racing track in Crosby over the weekend, arresting a group of nine alleged conspirators that included six law enforcement officers.

Following an 11-month investigation that included extensive undercover work, the Harris County District Attorneys Office reports it discovered area off-duty deputies working security for an underground gambling operation at Rancho El Herradero — a horse "training center," according to signs posted at its main entrance. 

Working in concert with the officers in question were three civilians, including the owner of the 71-acre property and a female suspect facing additional charges for impersonating a police officer. The woman appears to be the wife of a state trooper also arrested during the bust. 

Pearly white steel gates open to a manicured raceway that would make  Secretariat whinny with joy.

For years, neighbors have watched an unusual amount of traffic flow to the Rancho El Herradero on Saturdays. Even from a considerable distance, area residents could hear playing throughout the afternoon and long into the evening. Not to mention hooves.

Judging from pictures uncovered by KHOU, this is no backyard horse track. Pearly white steel gates open to a manicured raceway that would make Secretariat whinny with joy.

The clandestine party ranch, which has maintained a legal TABC beer and wine license since 2008, enjoyed a loyal customer base for its regular weekend events. A Facebook business page lists El Herradero as a "Mexican restaurant," where more than 1,200 visitors have "checked in." CultureMap's multiple calls to the ranch went unanswered.

Constable Alan Rosen of Harris County Precinct 1 — covering much of the western Inner Loop and northwest Houston — immediately fired two deputies involved with providing security for the ranch. Two other Fort Bend deputies also have lost their jobs. The employment status of the two other officers remains unclear.

“Peace officers take an oath to uphold the law,” Terese Buess with the district attorney's office said in a recent statement. “To discover them actually working in their official capacity to provide security for organized criminal enterprises is extremely alarming and disappointing.”

All nine suspects were released on $5,000 bonds and stand accused of horse racing without a license, a felony charge punishable by two to 10 years of prison time. In a Harris County court on Monday, defense attorneys maintained their clients' innocence and/or ignorance.

Watch the full KHOU report:

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