05/12/2004 12:00AM

Vet helped put Smarty back together

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CLARKSBURG, N.J. - Patty Hogan will be in Pebble Beach this weekend on a golfing vacation with her husband. But you can bet she will tear herself from the links to watch Smarty Jones race in Saturday's $1 million Preakness Stakes.

Hogan, a veterinarian at the New Jersey Equine Clinic, is the doctor who treated Smarty Jones last summer after the colt seriously injured himself when he reared up and hit his head in the starting gate at Philadelphia Park. The injury was one of the first chapters in the dramatic saga of Smarty Jones, who became a household name two weeks ago when he won the Kentucky Derby.

The injury may also have been the first telltale sign of the class of Smarty Jones. Hogan said she was taken by how calm Smarty Jones acted when he came off the van with the tissue around his eye hanging out.

"He looked awful and he was bleeding around the left nostril," Hogan recalled in a recent interview in her office. "Most horses would be distressed, screaming, whinnying at everybody, nervous, dancing around. He trotted in with his ears up like, 'Here I am.' "

Smarty Jones had been at the track for only three weeks when trainer John Servis took him to the starting gate for the first time on the morning of July 27. While in the gate, Smarty Jones reared up and hit his head on a metal bar in the gate. He began to bleed profusely from his nostrils and forehead.

Dr. Dan Hanf was on call that morning, covering for Dr. Roger Clymans, Servis's regular veterinarian, who was on vacation. Hanf did what he could to get the bleeding and subsequent swelling under control. As the hours passed, Hanf said the swelling around the eye and forehead got worse. According to Hanf, it wasn't until the next morning that the decision was made to send Smarty Jones to the New Jersey Equine Clinic, about an hour from Philadelphia Park. The clinic, which can house 44 horses in four barns, specializes in orthopedic surgery.

Hogan was performing surgery on another horse when she was told to prepare for an emergency eye removal.

Hogan also remembers what Servis - a client of Hogan's for several years - told her about the then-unraced 2-year-old.

"He said 'You got to do whatever you can do for this one because this guy can really run. It's scary,' " Hogan said. "And he never really says anything like that. He's usually very conservative."

After an X-ray determined that the eyeball was still intact, Hogan injected medication into the surrounding tissue to reduce the swelling.

"I did that for three days, and it started to respond," Hogan said. "By the end of the week I knew he could see. There were so many small pieces and everything was kind of fitting in place, so I felt it better not to disturb it. I put these huge bandages on his head - that's why we called him Quasimodo."

Hogan said there were several small fractures above the eye socket, which she felt would heal on their own. Smarty Jones stayed at the clinic until Aug. 8, according to Hogan. After that, he was sent to a Pennsylvania farm for approximately six weeks before going back into training in September. Two months later, Smarty Jones won his maiden by 7 3/4 lengths at Philadelphia Park.

"John said, 'Remember I told you that horse could really run,' " Hogan said. "Well, he can really run."

Hogan said she watched the Kentucky Derby from home with family and friends. If Smarty Jones wins the Preakness, Hogan and her 19 associates at the New Jersey Equine Clinic plan to be in attendance at the Belmont.

The walls at the New Jersey Equine Clinic are filled with pictures of former patients, such as Mister Frisky, Lost Code, Dehere, Iron Deputy, and Songandaprayer. You can bet that Smarty Jones will soon join that group.