- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - Thoroughbred breeder and owner Ernie Paragallo takes “total responsibility” for the four former racehorses he owned who were rescued last month reportedly one step from slaughter.

The New York Times reported Saturday the undernourished and neglected mares were among 20 horses given away by Paragallo four months ago. Paragallo told the newspaper he was not aware they were sickly.

“It is my total responsibility,” Paragallo said Saturday at Aqueduct, a few hours before he sent out Cellar Dweller in the Wood Memorial. “I should have made sure who the hell I was dealing with. It’s a major screw-up. I don’t feel very good about it.”

Paragallo told the Times he gave the horses to an unidentified Florida-based breeder in December. The horses were taken from Paragallo’s Center Brook Farm in Climax, N.Y., for breeding purposes.

The four mares were “hundreds of pounds” underweight, infested with lice and parasites and in “horrible condition,” Dr. James Holt, a Pennsylvania veterinarian who examined them, told the Times.

Richie Baiardi, a horse transporter, told the newspaper he picked up the horses at Paragallo’s farm at the end of February. Their poor condition prevented him from taking them to Florida.

“They were a bag of bones, literally walking hides,” Baiardi told the Times. “I knew I couldn’t get health certificates for them, and I didn’t even think they’d make it to Florida. I didn’t want to take them, but the guys working on the farm said if I didn’t they were just going to die right there. They told me, two had already died that morning.”

It was Baiardi, the Times said, who took them to the kill pen, and sold them for $680.

Paragallo said Saturday he has dealt with Baiaradi and he was a “straight-shooting guy. And he did call me back after he took the horses and said a couple of them were thin.”

But, Paragallo added: “We keep our barren mares thin because we found it has worked for our breeding program.”

The mares are being rehabilitated at a farm in Bernville, Pa., operated by Another Chance 4 Horses, a rescue group whose blog first reported the discovery of the mares, the Times said.

Paragallo said Saturday this was a wake-up call.

“You’ve got to know who you are dealing with,” he said. “Just last week I sent six horses up to a guy in Finger Lakes and then sent somebody up to make sure they are still at Finger Lakes.”

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