His Eclipse Thoroughbred ownership group had only been in existence for about six months when founder Aron Wellman spotted the horse his gut told him might be one to put his fledging partnership venture on the map.
"When she broke her maiden at Turfway Park in January, I couldn't get on the phone fast enough after I did my research," Wellman said Sunday, recalling the moment his first spotted a quirky bay filly named In Lingerie. "She was a big leap of faith for us because she was a pretty high-dollar ticket."
Good instincts are key when diving into the world of Thoroughbred ownership. Given the results of Sunday's Grade I, $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland, Wellman won't likely question his internal trigger anytime soon.
Once known for her behavioral kinks, In Lingerie will go down as the first Grade I winner owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, drawing off in the final furlong to take the 11⁄8-mile Spinster by two lengths over Mystical Star before 12,646.
Purchased privately by Eclipse Thoroughbred after winning her first time out at Turfway in January, In Lingerie has never been off the board in seven starts and is unbeaten in three career starts on synthetic tracks.
Her biggest achievement, however, might be learning how to stop getting in the way of her own ability. Her issues with loading in the gate have become a thing of the past, a tribute, Wellman says, to the patience trainer Todd Pletcher has shown in his handling.
"When you look at the way she was just behavioral wise, and all the quirks she had, it's a true credit to (Pletcher) and his staff," Wellman said. "She is a total professional filly right now.
"This is really what we wanted to do, knock down a Grade I with her before the end of the year."
After winning the Grade III Bourbonette at Turfway and scoring her first win on dirt in the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico, In Lingerie ran into a buzz saw in Questing — who defeated her in both the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama Stakes.
Even though she was taking on older fillies in the Spinster, getting her on a synthetic track put In Lingerie over the top. After rating in fourth along the rail while pacesetter Juanita cut an opening half in :47.97, the 2-to-1 favorite advanced along with Starformer around the final turn before angling out to strike the front at about the eighth pole.
"Once I got her out ... and she was in the clear, she responded right away," jockey John Velazquez said. "She's more mature and relaxed."
In Lingerie covered the 11⁄8 miles in 1:49.42 with Upperline getting up for third.
With the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic field shaping up as the one of the toughest for the world championships, Wellman hasn't ruled out putting his group's star filly in the Filly and Mare Turf.
"The filly division is just insanely deep right now," he said. "Not that we're scared of any of them, but with her pedigree and the fact she has obviously shown an affinity for the Polytrack, (the turf) is something to think about."
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com.