Shuttered Elmont horse hospital back in business as Cornell facility

The exterior of the Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists The exterior of the Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists facility in Belmont on May 7, 2014. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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An equine hospital near Belmont Park -- viewed as a hub for treating racehorses when it opened in 2009 but financially troubled when it closed sometime later -- was back in business Wednesday with a new owner and a 20-year lease.

The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine reopened the 22,000-square-foot medical facility last month in a lease-buy agreement with Manhattan-based Racebrook Capital Advisors. It will serve as a much-needed referral, specialty and critical care facility for horses on Long Island as a well as a teaching hospital for veterinary medical students, officials said at last night's opening ceremonies.

The celebratory ribbon-cutting at the two-story building on Plainfield Avenue was a stark change of fortunes for the hospital. It originally opened in 2009 to much fanfare as the Ruffian Equine Medical Center -- named after the legendary filly that had to be put down after breaking its leg a few hundred yards away during a 1975 match race with rival Foolish Pleasure.

Its proximity to the Belmont Park racetrack was seen as a selling point for the facility because of its capacity to treat horses.

The hospital closed after its operator had trouble sustaining it financially. The site was put up for auction last May.

Nearly a 100 people attended the opening, where Dr. Michael I. Kotlikoff, the dean of the Ithaca university's veterinary medicine school, said it will be one of just a few in the metropolitan area to offer emergency services for horses.

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It has 29 stalls, and a standing MRI machine that is not present on Ithaca's campus, Kotlikoff said. The hospital will offer surgical, imaging and diagnostic and rehabilitation services and be staffed by Cornell veterinarians and technicians.

It's also equipped as a five-days-a-week referral hospital, largely for orthopedic and soft tissue surgeries.

In July, it will begin offering emergency and critical care services, and officials eventually hope to operate 24-hours-a-day, university officials said.

Veterinary students will serve rotations at the Elmont center, officials said, as will surgical staff. It will treat not just race horses but also pleasure or riding horses.

Kotlikoff said the hospital will provide treatment to horses "that will never come to Ithaca and horses that need critical care and don't get it because they have to be driven. Every fifteen minutes counts."

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