- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The thoroughbred breeder whose credentials have been revoked by New York racing officials said Friday that “mismanagement” led to malnourishment among more than 170 horses at his Hudson Valley farm.

But Ernie Paragallo told The Associated Press that he didn’t abuse any of the 177 horses seized by authorities earlier this week at Center Brook farm in the Greene County town of Coxsackie, 20 miles south of Albany.

Paragallo spoke via cell phone before a meeting late Friday morning with state police investigators considering animal cruelty charges stemming from what veterinarians called the horses’ malnourished condition.

“It wasn’t knowing neglect,” the 51-year-old Paragallo said. “Did I try and harm any of those horses? Absolutely not. Did some of them come up skinny? Absolutely. Was it mismanagement? Absolutely. I’m not shying away from it. But I didn’t abuse them.”

State police and animal protection organizations seized the horses at his upstate farm Wednesday. Veterinarians examined the animals and found all of them to be in varying stages of malnutrition.

The horses remain on the farm under the supervision of the Columbia Greene Humane Society.

Paragallo, who lives on Long Island, blamed the horses’ conditions on miscalculations in the amount of feed and hay purchased for the farm over the winter.

“We probably underfed them the amount of feed they were supposed to get,” he said.

Paragallo said he had even more horses, 240 to 250, the previous winter on the 500-acre farm, which has two 83-acre paddocks.

“It’s hard to keep track of every horse when they’re turned out in those big paddocks,” he said.

Paragallo said he planned to go to the farm after his meeting with police. It would be his first visit to Center Brook in at least nine months, he said.

Paragallo owned Unbridled’s Song, who won the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and the Florida Derby and the Wood Memorial, both in 1996. He also owned Artax, the 1999 Eclipse winner for top sprinter.

Meanwhile, the New York Racing Association revoked Paragallo’s credentials for NYRA’s three tracks _ Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct, where his daughters’ stable has 40 horses. The move prohibits Paragallo from the tracks’ backstretch and paddock, but not its grandstand or other areas open to patrons.

Paragallo is licensed with the state Racing and Wagering Board as the authorized agent for Paraneck Stable, which he founded but later turned over to his daughters Jennifer and Kristen in 2005, when the state revoked his owner’s license for financial irresponsibility.

NYRA officials said no member of the Paragallo family or current Paraneck employee are allowed to operate the stable. The Paraneck horses currently stabled at Aqueduct’s barns will be allowed to remain at the track. According to the Daily Racing Form, three Paraneck horses set to race at Aqueduct were scratched this week and five others will be scratched between Friday and Wednesday.

The Racing and Wagering Board has launched its own investigation into Paragallo. Agency spokesman Joe Mahoney said the board is looking into whether it appears Paragallo has been acting as the stable’s owner, despite having his owners license revoked four years ago.

“The question we have is, who is the real owner or owners of Paraneck Stable?” Mahoney said.

“I never said I was an owner,” Paragallo said Friday. “What am I an owner of? I never stated I was an owner.

Paragallo has agreed, at the board’s suggestion, to surrender his authorized agent’s license next week, Mahoney said.

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