Midnight Cello earned his first graded stakes score and first victory of the season in style July 18, taking the $100,000 Hanshin Cup Stakes (gr. III) at Arlington International Racecourse with a bold early move up the rail under jockey Florent Geroux.
A 5-year-old son of Midnight Lute who was claimed by Patricia's Hope LLC just four starts back in December at Gulfstream Park, Midnight Cello was making not only his Arlington debut, but his synthetic surface debut as well.
The Michael Tomlinson trainee came off a seventh-place finish in the May 1 Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs and was supplemented to the one-mile Hanshin, which he won skipping over the all-weather track in a final time of 1:34.83. The race was run after seven contenders waited in the paddock while a rain delay held up racing at the Illinois oval.
"I'm thrilled to death he ran as well as he did. 'Flo' gave him a great ride," Tomlinson said. "The horse's pedigree says he would love the synthetic track and it was worth a shot... we just pinned our ears and came on up and it worked out."
Even-money favorite Hogy had the early advantage through a quarter in :24.37, after Midnight Cello bobbled slightly at the start and was shuffled back to last from post 2. But after a quick recovery from the minor incident, Geroux sent his runner up the inside to take over.
Midnight Cello opened three lengths on Hogy while clicking through a half in :47.41, and held a length advantage for three-quarters in 1:11.08, turning for home with more to give.
"I had a great trip. My horse bobbled a little bit in the gate but I was able to weave my way through and made the lead quite comfortably," said Geroux. "I saw no one really wanted to go, so I decided 'I'm going to take the front end and try to control the race.' When I asked him to go while turning for home, he responded very well."
The eventual winner got seven-eighths in 1:22.83 while drawing off to a 5 1/2-length victory. Mister Marti Gras, wheeling back a week after finishing fifth in the Stars and Stripes Stakes (gr. IIIT) over Arlington's turf course, closed for second over Hogy, who held third half a length back.
Midnight Cello returned $13, $7.20, and $4 at odds of 5-1. Mister Marti Gras paid $5 and $3, while Hogy brought $2.60. Lahshad, Stormy Pacific, Agent Di Nozzo, and Empirestrikesagain completed the order of finish. Hammers Terror and Taken by the Storm scratched.
Bred in Kentucky by Carolyn Vogel out of the Johannesburg mare Mocella, Midnight Cello improved his record to 6-7-4 from 27 starts for earnings of $292,740.
"He's a nice horse," Tomlinson said. "We got him in Florida... we had some little issues with him, but he has come back exceptionally well. When he was last early I was a little worried but when he got to the front with his ears pricked, I knew the rest of them were in trouble."