Cellist won his stakes debut, the Audubon S. at Churchill Downs last May, after finishing a close second in a Keeneland allowance. The pattern was successfully repeated at Churchill on Saturday when Cellist, who was coming off a half-length defeat in an April 27 allowance over 1 1/16 miles in Lexington, recorded his second stakes win in the $199,777 Louisville S. (G3) for owner-breeder Calumet Farm.
Under Julien Leparoux, Cellist rated in midpack for much of the 1 1/2-mile journey, contested over a turf rated good. Cellist made a three-wide bid into contention on the third and final turn, took a short lead from long-time leader Cavalry Charge in upper stretch, and held off a late lunge from 62-1 outsider Reigning Spirit to win by a diminishing head.
“He had to work himself back into shape,” trainer Rusty Arnold said. “We started out with a bad race in Florida (seventh in the Feb. 5 Tampa Bay [G3]). The race at Keeneland was a very good race. A mile and a half is what he wants to do.”
Cellist returned $13.60 after completing the course in 2:32.12. Reigning Spirit finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Highest Honors, who won a multi-horse photo for third. The order of finish was rounded out by Cibolian, Bama Breeze, Shamrocket, Camp Hope (the 4.9-1 favorite), Modus Operandi, Cavalry Charge, Another Mystery, Blanket of Ross, Strong Tide, Cullum Road, and Ajourneytofreedom.
A Kentucky-bred, Cellist moves on with a record of 10-3-2-2, $467,875. Following his victory in the nine-furlong Audubon last May, Cellist next finished third in the Belmont Derby (G1), sixth in the Saratoga Derby (G1), and third in the Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs. He was subsequently gelded.
A four-year-old son of 2015 turf champion Big Blue Kitten, Cellist was produced by Cello, an English Channel full sister to multiple Grade 3 winner Optimizer.