08/08/2005 11:00PM

Horse-shooting trial begins

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A 16-year-old juvenile who allegedly shot seven horses, killing five, in Fresno County in March goes on trial on Thursday in Fresno on a variety of charges, including eight counts of cruelty to animals and six counts of shooting from a road, according to a detective in the Fresno County Sheriff's Dept.

One of the horses that died was a yearling half-brother to Leave Me Alone, the winner of the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga last Saturday.

According to detective Jared McCormick of the Fresno County Sheriff's Dept.'s agricultural task force, the juvenile will go on trial in Fresno Superior Court. The juvenile, whose name was not released, will appear before a judge, but the case will not have a jury because of the defendant's age, McCormick said.

"They're definitely fighting" the charges, McCormick said.

The incidents, which occurred over several days, happened in the second week of March, according to Bud Johnston, who owned the yearling colt and owns Old English Rancho farm, near Sanger, Calif. Johnston said the juvenile "shot a bunch of dogs and cats and cattle" as well as horses.

According to a statement released in March by the Fresno County Sheriff's Dept., the value of the five horses that died was placed at $200,000. A necropsy performed on one horse showed the presence of a .22 caliber round in the horse's body, according to the sheriff's dept.

Johnston bred Leave Me Alone with partners. A winner of 5 of 8 starts and $486,370, Leave Me Alone is by Bold Badgett out of the Moscow Ballet mare Fabulous Ballet.

Johnston said he has a 2-year-old half-sister to Leave Me Alone by In Excess, and that the mare has a weanling filly by Perfect Mandate. Fabulous Ballet has been pronounced in foal to Unusual Heat, Johnston said.

But five months after the shootings, he still rues the death of the yearling colt.

"I remember writing down in my notes that this was the best yearling we had," Johnston said.