Jockey John Velazquez, who guided In Lingerie to a six-length triumph in the March 26 Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III) at Turfway Park, has committed to ride the daughter of Empire Maker in the Kentucky Oaks for trainer Todd Pletcher. In Lingerie, in spite of just three lifetime starts, is expected to be a solid contender in the $1 million event for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles.
Bred in Kentucky by Colts Neck Stables, In Lingerie was privately acquired by Eclipse and Barber from previous owner Warren Lyster after the filly won her career debut at Turfway Park in January by 6 1/4 lengths. She was transferred from the barn of Stephen Lyster to the care of Pletcher, who has now saddled her twice.
In Lingerie was a troubled second behind Zo Impressive in a Gulfstream Park allowance race Feb. 25, and then came back to decisively win the Bourbonette, which marked her first start around two turns. She now has career earnings of $82,265.
“After huddling up with Todd (Pletcher) and our partner, Gary (Barber), we decided unanimously that running In Lingerie in the Oaks was a calculated risk worth taking,” said Eclipse president Aron Wellman, a former attorney and one-time vice president of Team Valor International. “In Lingerie is an extremely talented yet relatively unseasoned filly.
“She’s training exceptionally well, her numbers are progressive and well within striking distance of the top fillies pointed for the race, she will appreciate the distance, and she seems to really be coming into her own at the moment," Wellman added. "Add the fact that we’ve got John (Velazquez) on board and we believe we’d be headed to Louisville with a legitimate contender.”
California-based Wellman grew up learning about the industry from his parents, small breeders Mike and Cory Wellman, and counts famed jockeys Bill Shoemaker and Eddie Delahoussaye among his early mentors in the business.
Wellman, 33, spent several summers working on the backstretch at Del Mar and claimed his first horse for $32,000 with a couple of friends after he had started practicing law.
He then formed his first partnership, Let’s Get Lucky (LGL) Racing and imported two European fillies, Three Degrees and Val Benny, who both went on to become successful turf runners in California. Wellman sold the latter graded stakes-winning filly for $1.2 million at the 2007 Keeneland November mixed sale.
Wellman decided to leave his law practice in 2008 when he got the opportunity to work alongside Barry Irwin of Team Valor International. During Wellman’s 3 1/2 years with the company, Team Valor won several grade I races, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) with Pluck and the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with Animal Kingdom.
Wellman launched Eclipse in August 2011. The racing stable, which has offices in Dayton, Ohio (headed by Lee Midkiff), and Del Mar, Calif., forms racing partnerships with a primary focus on acquiring horses that have already proven themselves on the racetrack. Shortly after the stable was started, it was represented by Sweet Cat, who ran third in the 2011 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT).
Wellman is now hoping his good fortune in the business will continue with In Lingerie as she takes a shot at the Oaks.
“When we bought (In Lingerie), we had hoped she’d be graded caliber, and fortunately she’s lived up to that expectation in a short period of time,” said Wellman, who noted there are seven partners in Eclipse. “When you’ve got a guy like Todd Pletcher on your team who has the best gage as to where to go, and when and he gives the green light to go ahead with a filly like this and try a race like the Oaks, it certainly inspires confidence.
“We recognize it’s a bit of a stretch to run a filly with just three races under her belt, but we believe she’s got ample foundation and quality. She’s turned the corner and it seems like the light has gone on with this filly. If we can catch her at the right time, it’s certainly worth being there and giving her a chance to prove she belongs.”