Equine medical center under construction near Belmont racetrack


During the initial five-year operational phase, the center will focus on diagnostics and orthopedics.

ELMONT, N.Y. — A state-of-the-art equine medical facility under construction just outside New York's Belmont Park will aim to become the top private equine referral clinic for the Northeast, its owners say.

Looking ahead: This is an architect's drawing of how IEAH Corp.'s new Equine Medical Center, near Belmont Park on New York's Long Island, will look when completed. A grand opening is planned in January.

IEAH Corp. broke ground July 13 for the $15 million Equine Medical Center, which more than doubled in size from original plans after owners said demand for the facility grew beyond their early estimates.

Construction by J. Petrocelli Contracting, a New York firm, is expected to take about seven months, allowing for a January grand opening.

Original plans calling for an 11,000-square-foot clinic costing about $7 million were expanded to nearly 23,000 square feet. The center will have an array of diagnostic imaging, multiple surgical suites, treadmill endoscopy, bone scan, full chemistry lab, pharmacy and space for MRI.

Dr. James C. Hunt, DVM, whose practice already handles about 1,200 of the approximately 3,000 horses on the Belmont grounds, will be the clinic's head veterinarian and play a key role in bringing in surgeons and other staff.

Dr. James C. Hunt

Dr. Patricia Hogan, VMD, Dipl. ACVS, who was chief associate at the New Jersey Equine Clinic in Clarksburg, N.J., for 11 years, will be the center's head surgeon.

"She (Hogan) was at a point in her career that this seemed right for her, so we decided to team up on this project," Hunt says.

Plans for the medical center have been more than three years in the making, with IEAH Corp., a subsidiary of International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Inc., providing the financing in conjunction with John Roberts, Sanford Robbins, Andrew Cohen and the TAG Advisory Group. Michael Iavarone and Richard J. Schiavo, IEAH co-presidents, also are horsemen who race under the silks of IEAH Stables.

The facility was designed by John Roberts Architects of London, and drawings were completed by Baldassano Architectural Group of New York, as architects of record.

Dr. Patricia Hogan

"When we first sat down to talk about a major investment in an equine facility in this area, a training center was initially considered, but then it was decided that a first-class equine hospital would be a better use of the money and meet an important need as well," Hunt says. "It will be gorgeous, first-class and state-of-the-art."

Besides the large number of horses that run at the nearby Belmont and Aqueduct tracks, "there are probably 10,000 to 15,000 pleasure horses on Long Island alone," Hunt says. "We'll work with area vets, who can refer some of their more critical (surgery) cases to us, but we'll be a referral center only – we won't follow their patients around."

Hogan, who left the New Jersey clinic July 27, says "I was planning to start something on my own anyway, so when I was approached to work with this group, the timing and opportunity were perfect."

Hogan still plans to set up her own clinic near her home in New Jersey, but will divide her time between that and the Long Island facility, where "we'll hire at least one more surgeon full time and perhaps a part-time surgeon as well. Many in the large racetrack population already have contacted us, and of course we'll serve area veterinarians for referrals."

During the center's initial five-year operational phase, "we'll focus on orthopedics and diagnostics," Hunt says, not on patients with colic, enteritis or other medical conditions, but after the first phase the clinic can expand to provide critical surgical care in those areas, too, he says.

The center will have space for MRI, but won't provide that initially "because we don't think the technology is real usable – it isn't quite there yet," Hunt explains.

"The MRI technology is changing so fast, and the current format isn't the most user-friendly, so we'll wait a while before bringing that in," says Hogan.

Hunt is a 1979 graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. His practice clientele includes several well-known horse trainers and he has been instrumental in the development of some champion Thoroughbreds, including Cigar, Charismatic, Conquistador Cielo, Easy Goer, Lady's Secret, Personal Ensign and Private Account.

Hogan, a 1992 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, received the American Veterinary Medical Association's "President's Award" in 2005 for her treatment of 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones as an example of extraordinary commitment to animal health.

Hogan saw the horse in July 2003, after it reared up in the starting gate during training near Philadelphia, smashing his skull against an iron bar and causing so much damage an attending veterinarian thought he might lose an eye. Hogan, who was to perform the surgery at the New Jersey clinic, first ran tests, including an ultrasound, and decided the horse could be treated without removing the eye. The injury healed and Smarty Jones was back on the track by November, going on to win both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2004.

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