08/25/2009 11:00PM

Paragallo says trainer stole horse from farm


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The New York State Police are investigating an allegation by Ernie Paragallo that trainer Joe DeMola stole a horse from Paragallo's Center Brook Farm in Climax, N.Y.

William Fitzmaurice, an investigator with the state police in Catskill, said on Wednesday morning that he could not comment any further than confirming an investigation is under way.

"We're looking into the proper ownership of the horse and the people who are said to be involved," Fitzmaurice said.

Paragallo, who was indicted on 35 counts of animal cruelty earlier this month after being arrested in April following the execution of a search warrant at Center Brook, said that a van driver hired by DeMola stole a filly named Home Proud from the farm on Tuesday night. DeMola had previously trained horses for Paragallo, who surrendered his racing license following his arrest.

DeMola, who is stabled at Aqueduct in Ozone Park, N.Y., strongly denied having stolen a horse on Wednesday morning.

"That man is out of his [expletive] mind, my friend," DeMola said.

DeMola said that he had removed seven horses he owned from Center Brook several weeks ago. He said he did not know the whereabouts of Home Proud.

Earlier this year, after Paragallo surrendered his racing license, Joe Sgro purchased at least six of Paraneck's horses and transferred them to DeMola, including True Quality, who had won the Grade 2 General George Handicap at Laurel Park in February while trained for Paraneck by Johnny Campo Jr.

Paragallo has pleaded not guilty to the 35 counts of animal cruelty, and he said on Wednesday that he intends to vigorously contest the charges in court.