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Even under ordinary circumstances, relations among workers on the backside of a track can be strained, some who work at the track told TIME. With groups from so many different countries, nationalism can be fierce and tensions high. Despite that, Boehm assured those gathered at the service Monday that what they all shared in common now was a sense of violation. "This place is your home," he said. "This place is our home, and there is no place in our home for violence such as this. There is no place in any of God's homes, of his children, for murder. We should all be sad. We should all be furious, because this evil deed happened in our home."
The dead man himself seems to have made only small impressions during his time living at the track. Boehm said he knew him only barely, recognizing him from the times he received clothes from the community wardrobe that is operated by the chaplaincy. That's a good sign, he said, noting that most of the interaction a chaplain has on the backside is with workers who find themselves in trouble. Perez, he told TIME, had appeared to stay away from trouble at least until Saturday night, when it apparently found him.
Records provided to TIME by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission reveal little about Perez's life in America. Licensed to work in Kentucky since at least 2008, he had no serious violations and reported no criminal record. Yurian Santiesteban, a minister who translated Boehm's words into Spanish at Monday's service, knew Perez, though not well. "He would come to some services. He was a quiet guy. He would come and sit and listen," he told TIME.
Perez's boss is one of racing's best-connected, if only modestly successful, trainers, Cecil Borel. Borel's brother and frequent jockey is Calvin Borel, who has become a Churchill Downs sensation since winning the Kentucky Derby three times since 2007. After borrowing a reporter's handkerchief to wipe away his tears, the trainer left without speaking to the media. Earlier in the day, his family released a statement through the track about Perez. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of Mr. Perez. He was a kind, hard working man who took pride in his job, loved the horses he cared for and had no enemies that we are aware of," it read. "We hope that a full investigation will lead police to whomever committed this terrible crime, and that the individual or individuals responsible for this brutal act of violence will be brought to justice. In the mean time, we ask for your respect and privacy while we mourn the loss of a close member of our racing stable. We also ask that you keep Mr. Perez's son in your thoughts and prayers."
Louisville police say that investigation continues. They say no evidence yet suggests the killing had anything to do with the famous race or with the track. No doubt, Churchill Downs and the rest of racing is hoping the investigation bears that out. The industry, facing brutal competiton from casinos and other forms of gambling, has had a run of recent scandals: from the doping investigations of jockeys over recent years to last week's announcement that New York state has accused racing officials there of shorting bettors some $8.5 million after the Saratoga meet. Last year, just a few days after The Derby, another body was found on the backside of the track a once-promising jockey who had been trying for a comeback. He died from an overdose of cocaine and the painkiller Opana.
That incident was largely forgotten by the time the networks and the fans arrived for this year's Derby. But now, thanks to the murder of Adan Perez the public will have one more reason to remember, come next year and throughout the rest of the 2012 Triple Crown season, that behind the manicured moment that is the Kentucky Derby, there exists a much less glamorous, and sometimes downright ugly, side to racing.