Heather Cellinesi, who rescued 18 horses from a barn fire at Anchor and Hope Farm in August, has been selected to receive the 2019 Joe Kelly Maryland Million Unsung Hero Award. Presented annually by the board of directors of the Maryland Million Ltd., the award honors the memory of Joe Kelly and recognizes honesty, hard work and humility.
Cellinesi spent four years in various roles on the racetrack and working as an assistant to trainer Miguel Vera. This February, she began working for Louis and Grace Merryman’s Anchor and Hope Farm in Port Deposit, Md., as the barn manager.
“I wanted to get back to the farm life, the pace of life on the farm, but still be involved with the racing industry. I wanted to be there bringing foals into the world and helping them get that great start, leading them into being the racehorses they were meant to be,” said Cellinesi.
On Aug. 12, Cellinesi single-handedly saved 18 horses, including stallions Imagining and Bourbon Courage, from a fire which destroyed Anchor and Hope’s main barn. Despite the structural loss, no lives were lost.
“She’s irreplaceable. I don’t have enough good things to say about her. She is very important to us,” Louis Merryman said of Cellinesi. “Without her quick action there would have been a much different outcome.”