By Bill Heller
Oak Bluff Stable’s homebred, the five-year-old New York-bred gelding Therapist, co-bred and trained by Christopher Clement, has a unique problem, one that Oak Bluff’s Richard Leahy is happy to tolerate. Therapist runs better in open stakes company than he does in New York-bred stakes.
He did it again on November 14th, making a breathtaking rally on the far outside under Javier Castellano to win the $100,000 Artie Schiller Stakes by a neck at Aqueduct. It was his eighth stakes victory, six of which have come in open company.
In 10 starts in open stakes, Therapist has six victories and one third. In New York-bred stakes company, Therapist is two-for-seven with one second and a pair of thirds.
“He’s the perfect advertisement for the New York-bred program,” Clement said after the race. “He’s very consistent and can win at a high level against open company. He’s always had a very good turn of foot. I wasn’t sure if he would get there in time, but he was good enough to do it today.”
Having Castellano in the saddle certainly helped. “I’ve been watching this horse and following his races,” said Castellano, who was riding Therapist for the first time. “He was rolling. All the other horses were in slow motion and starting to slow down, and I could feel my horse moving forward. I knew I had this one.”
The victory upped Therapist’s all-turf career record to nine-for-21 with two seconds, five thirds and earnings of more than $650,000.
Leahy, 72, is the founding principal of the Episteme Capital Investment Company and lives in Westchester County, New York, near the Connecticut border. He was thrilled with Therapist’s Artie Schiller victory. “He’s a superb horse,” Leahy said on November 16th. “He’s a great horse and he tries every time. Every single race he tries.”
After dabbling in harness racing, Leahy got into Thoroughbred racing in the ‘90s. “I grew up in Boston,” he said. “I started going to Foxboro (which had harness racing) when I was in high school. I think some of the same things about business analysis applies to horses. It’s a similar analytical approach toward opportunities.”
Leahy joined a large partnership to buy six standardbreds. He did not enjoy the experience. “There were about 20 of us, and our partners were a pain in the neck,” he said. “They wouldn’t get their IDs or their fingerprints on time for their licenses.”
He did better with Thoroughbreds as a member of Waterville Lake Stable, which bought a yearling filly by Gulch, Fahamore, at auction. She had a chip in her knee, but efforts to return her weren’t successful. She was placed in training and made one start before suffering a career-ending injury. Waterville Lake’s business plan was to only keep fillies for broodmares if they had a good pedigree and were successful on the track. Fahamore didn’t fir that criteria. Leahy, though, saw potential.
“I told my partners I would not mind buying her on my own,” Leahy told Eric Mitchell in his April 4th, 2018, story in the BloodHorse. “They said no problem, as long as it is in a public auction.”
He got the filly for $37,000 at the 2003 Keeneland November Sale and formed Oak Bluff Stables. Fahamore produced four winners from six starters, led by multiple stakes winner Akilina, dam of stakes winner Governor Malibu, stakes-placed Kitty Panda and winner Blue Devil Bid, the dam of Oak Bluff Stable New York-bred Audible, who wo the 2018 Grade 1 Florida Derby.
Leahy is pleased to have Clement as his trainer and Dr. Doug Koch to mind his young horses. “We had the good fortune of knowing Dr. Koch, someone we have a very high respect for,” Leahy said. “We keep our horses at his Berkshire Stud.”
Therapist, a son of Freud out of Lady Renaissance by Smart Strike, was co-bred by Clement and Leahy. “He was extremely good looking, but he was a May 22nd foal and he was small,” Leahy said. “Christophe constantly complained how difficult he was, but he was very precocious. Rather than selling him cheaply, I bought Christophe out.”
Therapy rewarded Leahy’s faith. Once he hit the racetrack, Therapist impressed from day one. He followed a New York-bred maiden debut victory at Belmont Park with open-stakes scores in the Laurel Futurity and the Awad Stakes in his two other starts as a two-year-old.
He began his three-year-old campaign with a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Palm Beach and a neck score in the $127,000 Cutler Bay. After a sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Penn Mile at Penn National, he captured two divisions of the New York Stallion Stakes Series by two lengths at 1-2 odds and by 5 ½ lengths at 1-5 odds. He concluded his thee-year-old season with a seventh-place finish in the Grade 3 Saranac Stakes at Saratoga and a third in the $75,000 Tropical Park Derby.
Then Leahy gelded Therapist.
Therapist won his four-year-old debut in the $125,000 Elusive Quality Stakes, but in three New York-bred stakes, the Kingston, West Point and Ashley Cole, he finished fourth, third and fourth, respectively.
He returned to open stakes company in his five-year-old debut, and captured the $80,000 First Defence Stakes by a head.
Then, in New York-bred stakes company, he finished third in the West Point and second in the Mohawk.
What got him back to the winner’s circle? Why, open company, of course.
Castellano, who is taking the final six weeks of 2020 off for arthroscopic surgery on his right leg, let Therapist idle in sixth. Castellano had done his homework. “He’s the type of horse that likes to come from behind and can’t be too close to the pace or he’ll hang,” Castellano said. “Today, it worked out perfect. I had an outside post and saved all the ground.”
At the top of the stretch, Therapist was fourth on the extreme outside. Then he unleashed a powerful rally, roaring past the three horses in front of him. “He finished really strong,” Castellano said. “I liked the way he finished today.”
So did Leahy. “He’s a closer,” Leahy said. “He can really move.”
All he needed was a start in open stakes company. He could get another in the $100,000 Turf Sprint at Aqueduct on November 28th, or in a stakes at Gulfstream Park in December.
“Therapist has been very good to us over the years,” Clement said. “He might go for one more race this year or he could wait until next year. I haven’t decided yet, but we’ll see how he comes out of the race.”
He came out of the Artie Schiller in the winner’s circle, having his picture taken after another dramatic open stakes score.