BELMONT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The finishing touches are being prepared ahead of the Belmont Stakes on Long Island, where history may be in the making as California Chrome looks to take the Triple Crown.
And just steps away from the track, veterinarians stand at the ready.
As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, a newly opened equine hospital at the facility is catering to its 3,000 thoroughbreds.
“We have come a long way with at one time catastrophic injuries. We are able to save a lot of those horses now,” said Belmont veterinarian Dr. Jon Nordberg.
Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists is named for the legendary champion filly whose death in 1975 after a Belmont injury launched public outcry about more humane treatment of race horses, Gusoff reported.
A lot has changed since then.
“We fix a tremendous number of fractures each year and those horses go back to either race horse performance or sometimes they find a second career,” veterinary orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lisa Fortier said. “It’s not just a humane way to treat the horse, it can save the horse’s life.”
There is better track-side first aid, instant imaging for a quicker prognosis, better splints for improved healing and even better hardware to fix broken bones, Gusoff reported.
“The nuts and bolts have gotten a lot stronger,” Fortier said.
Patients weighing 1,200 pounds are lowered via cables onto a super-sized operating table. A padded, darkened recovery room enables horses to emerge from improved anesthesia calmer and without further injury.
On Tuesday, veterinarians treated George for a fungus. He’s not a race horse, but his owners are grateful help is now close by.
“We love our animals, they are like our children. So you want to rush your child to a hospital, we want to be able to get your horse to a hospital,” said horse owner Lynn Hadfield.
Fortier said if Ruffian had been injured nowadays, it would be “very likely Ruffian would have been saved.”
Ruffian was buried near the center flagpole on the infield of the Belmont racetrack. The crowds who will gather Saturday may not remember her, but her legacy ensures horses everywhere have better odds.
The equine hospital was closed for several years before reopening last month.
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