Day At The Track

Owner to sue racetrack/casino over horse's death

02:33 PM 06 Mar 2014 NZDT
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Little Bit Tricky, harness racing
Little Bit Tricky before her accident
Photo provided by Ken Burkley

The owner of a horse that died after suffering a broken leg while harness racing at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in February 2012 is preparing to sue the casino operator and racing organization over the track’s conditions.

The lawyer for Michael Paff of Avella filed a writ of summons Tuesday morning in Washington County Court blaming CCR Pennsylvania Racing Inc. and the Washington Trotting Association for the death of his horse in the race.

Little Bit Tricky, a 7-year-old mare, suffered a broken leg and had to be euthanized after race 15 in snowy conditions Feb. 4, 2013, according to his Greensburg attorney, Kenneth Burkley. The rider, Brett Miller, was not injured in the incident.

“It’s not just a horse. It’s somebody to them,” Burkley said. “Needless to say, there are pecuniary damages for the result. It was really bad (track) conditions and they shouldn’t have had them racing or taken better care of the track.”

Burkley did not know when he would file the formal complaint at the prothonotary’s office against the two entities or how much in damages they are seeking.

“Whatever the value of the horse is, we’re not ready to discuss that,” Burkley said. “It’s something where we have experts who can assess that and will be presenting that value.”

Little Bit Tricky won 28 times in 111 starts over six years of racing, Burkley said.

The horse died moments after another mare, Lislea Isabella, appeared to have respiratory problems in the previous race and died of a pulmonary hemorrhage. Little Bit Tricky had to be euthanized by an on-site veterinarian shortly after breaking its leg on the track.

CCR Pennsylvania Racing Inc. is the track operator while the Washington Trotting Association holds the license to sanction the horse races. Both are subsidiaries of Las Vegas-based Cannery Casino Resorts, which owns the Meadows Racetrack & Casino.

Tom Meinert, a spokesman for The Meadows, was unaware of the pending lawsuit and declined to comment. Meadows officials called the back-to-back deaths unprecedented and said at the time that only two or three horses usually die each year.

However, the 16th race that day was canceled because of what the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association said was due in part, to “subpar track conditions.”

The Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission investigated Little Bit Tricky’s death and concluded the horse took a “bad step” during the race to cause the leg fracture. No necropsy was performed on the animal because a state veterinarian documented the situation while at the scene, state Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Samantha Krepps said.

By Mike Jones and reprinted with permission from

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