05/08/2014 6:45AM

Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists has grand opening


ELMONT, N.Y. – As well-attired guests began to arrive for the official grand opening of a new equine clinic across the street from Belmont Park, a horse who had undergone surgery for a condylar fracture at the facility hours earlier was being led back to her stall at the track.

My Little Lulu is one of more than 50 patients whom Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists has had since it opened last month on the site of the former Ruffian Equine Medical Center on Plainfield Avenue three years after it closed.

On Wednesday evening, the facility had an official grand-opening ceremony attended by many in the racing and sport-horse community and some who were not, including New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, whose wife, Judy, is on the advisory board of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, and former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.).

The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine entered into a lease-buy arrangement with Racebrook Capital Advisors to open the 22,000-square-foot facility, which offers state-of-the-art facilities for equine care. Racebrook Capital loaned Cornell $2.6 million, and Cornell intends to invest an additional $500,000 to $1 million into the facility, according to Michael Kotlikoff, the dean of Cornell’s vet school. Kotlikoff also is an adviser to the New York Racing Association Reorganization Board.

“This is a program that allows us to provide specialized care in this part of the downstate, Long Island region, that allows us to give special care and do things for trainers and owners and all sport-horse activities,” said Dr. Alan Nixon, the chief medical officer for Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists and one of four surgeons on staff.

The facility has a treadmill for diagnoses of upper-airway/respiratory issues; offers high-definition ultrasounds and nuclear scintigraphy; and will be staffed by surgeons able to perform colic and other surgeries. By June, the facility hopes to start doing bone scans, and in the fall, it plans to start performing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

“I’m very excited about the increased and improved diagnostic capability that we’ll have here,” said Scott Palmer, recently appointed as New York’s equine medical director. “In the fall, we’ll have an MRI system that’ll be terrific when a horse is injured and radiographs are negative and we know they’re not quite right but it’s difficult to pin down the diagnosis. We’ll be able to do that with the equipment here.”

Back in 2009, International Equine Acquisitions Holdings, which owned 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown, opened the Ruffian Equine Medical Center on these grounds. But the facility closed in March 2011, when IEAH encountered financial difficulties.

All cases that will be handled at Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists will be referrals from veterinarians, according to Kotlikoff.

“We’re not in any barns; we get cases referred by veterinarians,” Kotlikoff said.

Rick Violette, a trainer and president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, called the opening of this facility “a good day” for New York racing.

“Basically, I think it’s terrific, especially for emergency care; whether it’s colic or an injury to a limb that could be life-threatening, there’s nothing like having a facility like this literally minutes away,” Violette said. “They’re only going to be as good as the clinicians and doctors they have, and their standards are usually pretty high.”