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Prominent thoroughbred breeder goes on trial for animal cruelty in New York

February 24, 2010 |  7:29 pm

Paragallo

CATSKILL, N.Y. — The 177 horses seized in a raid of an upstate New York farm last year were malnourished, a prosecutor said Tuesday at the start of the trial of the farm's owner, a prominent thoroughbred horse breeder who was banned from racing.

Ernie Paragallo, the former owner of 1996 Kentucky Derby favorite and fifth-place finisher Unbridled's Song, was charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty after the April raid by state police and animal welfare investigators.

In opening statements, Greene County Dist. Atty. Terry Wilhelm said the horses' bodies had deteriorated for lack of nourishment.

Michael Howard, a lawyer for Paragallo, said he will present documentation that the horses were properly cared for.

Paragallo, a Long Island resident, has denied abusing the animals but has been stripped of racing privileges in New York by the state Racing and Wagering Board and by the New York Racing Assn.

Paragallo, 52, had started more than 4,500 horses and earned more than $20 million in purses at the time of his arrest.

Scores of malnourished horses, many of them infested with internal and external parasites, were found in the raid of the 500-acre farm in Coxsackie in the Hudson Valley on April 8, 2009. Most were later adopted by rescue groups and horse farms around the country.

Two days after the raid, Paragallo told the Associated Press he didn't intend to harm any of the horses and blamed their mistreatment on "mismanagement."

Paragallo is expected to testify this week at the non-jury trial in Greene County Court in Catskill, 20 miles south of Albany.

If convicted of the misdemeanor counts, Paragallo could face up to two years in jail and $35,000 in fines.

-- Associated Press

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Photo: Paragallo, at right, listens as Greene County Dist. Atty. Terry J. Wilhelm, left, presents his opening remarks Tuesday. Paragallo's attorney, Michael C. Howard, center, looks on. Credit: Lance Wheeler / Associated Press

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