06/30/2005 11:00PM

More fun than hitting a pick six

Benoit & Associates
Three Degrees has given three of her minority owners a bevy of thrills.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Just try having more fun at the races than Braden Huenefeld, Michael Rosenmayer, and Aron Wellman are by owning Three Degrees, who starts in Sunday's $750,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park.

They collectively own only a quarter-interest in Three Degrees, a stakes-winning filly, but have been living a dream this year.

They have had baseball caps made in Three Degrees's honor, they track her every move on mornings when she works, and they have invited loads of friends to witness Sunday's race.

Owning their first stakes winner has produced emotions difficult to compare to past experiences.

"I did hit a pick six for $150,000 in 1999," said Rosenmayer. "This is a bigger thrill than that."

, trained by Paddy Gallagher, is the leading 3-year-old turf filly in California this year on the strength of her win in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap here on June 5. It was her first stakes win and came in her fourth start since arriving from England last winter.

It was last December when bloodstock agent Richard Duggan negotiated the sale of Three Degrees, and the partnership of Richard Bonnycastle (Harlequin Ranches), Mary DiPietro, and Huenefeld, Rosenmayer, and Wellman was formed.

Rosenmayer, a bond portfolio manager, and Wellman, an attorney, are cousins. Rosenmayer, 36, met Huenefeld, who is in real estate and the yard sign business, in college.

Wellman, 27, grew up going to the races and watching horses owned by his parents, Michael and Cory. Family friends included the retired Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye and the late Bill Shoemaker.

"As I kid, I was in photos with Aron's parents," Rosenmayer said.

Michael and Cory Wellman have had horses with Gallagher in recent years. The success of Three Degrees has made Aron Wellman the most successful owner in the family this year.

"I feel bad," Wellman said. "My parents have been paying 30 years of dues."

Three Degrees was a maiden when she arrived from England. She quickly won a maiden race and an optional claimer in her first two starts at Santa Anita in March and April.

"When she came here in December, I said to Paddy, 'Have her ready for the American Oaks,' " Aron Wellman said. "When I said it, I was joking, but every step has been the right step. Richard picked out the filly. Paddy has done everything right."

Three Degrees finished second by a nose in her stakes debut, the one-mile Senorita Stakes on May 8. That proved to Huenefeld that she was genuine.

"When she lost by an inch in the Senorita, we knew we had something special, but we didn't know what," said Huenefeld, 35.

In the Honeymoon, Three Degrees was the 2-1 favorite. She rallied from 10th in a field of 13 to win by a length, the best performance of her career.

"It was incredible," Rosenmayer said. "We just looked at each other and hugged. Aron was in tears."

Three Degrees has earned $165,559, slightly more than the $150,000 it cost the partnership to purchase and transport her from England. A win on Sunday would make her the top 3-year-old turf filly in the nation, and continue a dream season for three young owners.