04/12/2009 11:00PM

Campo standing by Paraneck Stable


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - John Campo Jr. considers himself a lucky man. That might sound weird considering he is the trainer for Paraneck Stable, an outfit currently unable to run its horses after its authorized agent, Ernie Paragallo, was charged with 22 counts of animal abuse for neglecting horses on his Center Brook Farm in upstate New York.

But Campo's good fortune goes beyond the track. Last Wednesday, Campo admitted himself to St. Francis Hospital complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath. He was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer and, according to Campo, doctors told him his red blood cell count was so low that he was a prime candidate for a massive heart attack.

"They told me you're lucky you're not dead," Campo said by phone Monday morning.

After undergoing two procedures that dealt with repairing a blood vessel in his stomach, Campo was released from the hospital late Friday night. Monday morning, he returned to work at Aqueduct where he watched 36 of Paraneck Stable's horses gallop.

Campo and the Paraneck runners are in limbo right now. Last week, the New York Racing Association banned any Paraneck horses from racing at its three tracks - Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga - until Paragallo is replaced as the stable's authorized agent. Officially, the proprietors of Paraneck are Paragallo's daughters, Jennifer and Kristen.

Also, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board is conducting its own investigation into Paraneck Stable and is reviewing the qualifications of the daughters as licensed owners. A subpoena issued to Paraneck and Paragallo by the board requires Paraneck to produce documents by April 28 that determine who owns the horses on the farm as well as the track, according to board spokesman Joe Mahoney.

Meanwhile, Mahoney said the board supports NYRA's action. NYRA officials said a new authorized agent may not be a relative of Paragallo's or a stable employee, which would rule Campo out.

"If Ernie's no longer in the picture I don't know why I can't be authorized agent for the girls if they want me to be," Campo said. "Maybe I can, maybe I can't. If there's a third person that needs to be involved, I have no idea who that third person would be. I'll have a better idea of what's going on Wednesday."

Campo, who began training for Paragallo last September, said the one thing that confuses him about this situation is that no one from Paragallo's Center Brook Farm ever called his stable to complain about the welfare of the horses based there.

"The farm has never called our organization at Aqueduct Racetrack saying the horses needed help," Campo said. "They never said the horses are in trouble, they never said the horses aren't getting cared for, they never said the horses were getting neglected, they never said the horses weren't getting fed."

Campo said that, to his knowledge, none of the horses he has trained for Paragallo came from that farm. Horses that shipped in to his stable usually came from a farm in Ocala, Fla., where horses were recuperating from injury or ailments at facilities not owned by Paragallo.

"I got nothing to do with the horses that were on that farm," Campo said. "I had no idea what was going on."

Campo, the son of the late John Campo Sr., who trained Derby winner Pleasant Colony, was nearly out of the training business when Paragallo hired him last fall. For that, Campo said, he is grateful and plans to stick by Paraneck Stable. The best horse in the stable is the sprinter True Quality, who won the Grade 2 General George at Laurel in February and the Paumonok here in January.

"I won't turn my back on Ernie," Campo said. "I was dead and he brought me alive."

During Aqueduct's inner-track meet (Dec. 3-March 28), Paraneck won 13 races from 147 starters and earned purse money of $430,228. For 2009, Paraneck ranks 32nd in the nation in purse money with $469,710, according to Equibase.

Dream Play targets Acorn

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is flush in the 3-year-old filly division, allowing him the luxury to hit many of the major events with relatively fresh stock. When Dream Play won Saturday's Grade 2 Comely Stakes, it was the seventh stakes victory in the division for the stable with four different horses.

While Justwhistledixie is headed for the Kentucky Oaks, Dream Play will train up to the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont on June 6, assistant trainer Art Magnuson said Monday. Dream Play will skip the Grade 2 Nassau County at Belmont on May 2, but the stable will be represented by Saarlight, who won an allowance race last week at Aqueduct after winning the Wide Country Stakes at Laurel as a maiden last month.

"I know it was only an allowance race, but she stepped it up a notch," Magnuson said of Saarlight's last race. "She's definitely improved and grown - we can't believe how she's grown. She's going to be a lot of fun."

Fitz Just Right, the other 3-year-old filly stakes winner for McLaughlin, will run next in either the Kentucky Oaks or Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico on May 15, owner Terry Finley said.

Mr. Fantasy gets back to work

After going two weeks without a workout, Mr. Fantasy returned to the worktab last Friday, drilling four furlongs in 47.08 seconds, the fastest of 26 moves at the distance as he prepares for the Grade 3 Withers here April 25.

Mr. Fantasy, a New York-bred son of E Dubai, had won his first two starts before finishing third in the Gotham on March 7. He was under consideration for the Grade 1 Wood Memorial before his connections opted to skip that race and aim for the Withers.

"Since we decided we weren't going to go to the Wood, we skipped a work and let him freshen up," Magnuson said. "He's right back on the ball."

Muzikar, Coa back together

Breaking up proved hard to do for jockey Eibar Coa and his agent, Matt Muzikar.

Last Friday, Muzikar said he had quit as Coa's agent and Coa quickly hired Drew Mollica, who quit Richard Migliore. But over the weekend, Muzikar and Coa patched their differences and on Monday, Muzikar said he and Coa have reunited.

"Nothing's really changed," Muzikar said. "I got back together with him."

Coa did not return a phone message.

According to Mollica, as of Monday afternoon, Coa still had not told him that he had reunited with Muzikar.

"I've never been so personally or professionally embarrassed," Mollica, said. "I can't believe professional people would behave this way. I feel terrible that a Hall of Fame rider like Richard Migliore should be a victim of this."