03/01/2011 5:12PM

Ruffian Equine Medical Center closed until May


The Ruffian Equine Medical Center on Long Island near Belmont Park was closed on Tuesday, but the owner of the property said that the clinic planned to reopen on May 1.

Michael Iavarone, the co-president of International Equine Acquisitions Holdings, which financed the $18 million clinic, said that the equine facility “is making some internal changes,” but that the clinic would open again when hundreds of horses based in New York return from Florida.

“It’s an extremely slow time of the year for them,” Iavarone said.

The 11,000-square-foot clinic opened with much fanfare in May 2009. IEAH provided the money to build the for-profit clinic, and it holds the lease on the property.

IEAH is currently enmeshed in a series of lawsuits and countersuits that allege that a major backer of the company, James Tagliaferri, defrauded the clients of his investment company by investing in IEAH and other risky ventures. The individual who filed that suit, Matthew Szulik, was later sued by a venture capitalist seeking to buy out IEAH on the grounds that Szulik had sought to discredit the buyout group as part of an elaborate tax-evasion scheme. Both sides have denied the charges.

The suits were filed at the time that IEAH was considering the buyout offer. A shareholder vote on whether to accept the offer was cancelled in January.

Iavarone said that lawsuits were not related to the closing of the equine clinic, and he said that the hospital did not have financial problems.

Iavarone also said that the clinic was looking to hire a “top-class surgeon,” and that the clinic was expecting to invest in new equipment.

The equine clinic was the closest hospital to Belmont and Aqueduct racetrack that was capable of performing musculo-skeletal surgeries. Before the clinic opening, the nearest hospitals with that capability were located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and upstate New York.

In February of last year, Dr. Patricia Hogan, the head surgeon at the Ruffian Equine Medical Center, resigned to return to her practice in New Jersey. She was replaced by a staff surgeon, Dr. Chris Bryon.

An employee of the clinic reached on Tuesday referred all calls to IEAH.