Totally Awesome - By Esther Marr

 (Originally published in the February 11, 2012 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)

When Willa B Awesome was a foal, breeder/co-owner Terry Lovingier would often stroll from his house to the filly’s pasture with a glass of wine to observe her.

“There was a Lion Heart filly in (the pasture) with her that was as nasty as can be, but Willa was always a sweetheart; she has a great personality,” said Lovingier, 55, who owns Lovacres Ranch near Warner Springs, Calif., with his wife, Barbara.

“I’d dream and talk to her and tell her, ‘You’re going to be a world champion,’ ” added Lovingier.

Willa B Awesome may not be a world champion, but she could be on her way. The 3-year-old daughter of Lovacres stallion Awesome Gambler (by Coronado’s Quest), and a second-generation homebred, became the first stakes winner for her sire when she captured the Barretts Debutante Stakes last Sept. 17 at Fairplex Park racing for Lovingier and longtime friends Phil Daniels of Arcadia, Patsy London of Long Beach, and John Winters of Pauma Valley.

Lovingier likes to spread the wealth around in the form of partnerships. To him, it makes the sport more enjoyable.

“(Daniels, London, and Winters) have always been good friends and good partners, and we’ve had a lot of fun together over the years,” said Lovingier.

When the group decided to stretch Willa B Awesome out to two-turn races, the Walther Solis-trained filly needed a few attempts to score again in black-type company, with runner-up efforts in the Robert H. Walter California Cup Juvenile Fillies Stakes and California Breeders Champion Stakes at Santa Anita Park. But the striking chestnut made her graded stakes debut count with a front-running, 3 1/2-length victory in the Jan. 28 Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) at the Southern California track.

A native of Oklahoma, Lovingier grew up around horses. He first became involved in Quarter Horses with his father, Russ, and brother, Dan, with whom he formerly owned a commercial breeding ranch near Waco, Texas.

The trio made the complete transition to Thoroughbreds in 2001 with the purchase of the initial Lovacres operation near Murrieta, Calif. To Lovingier’s dismay, the property was seized by the government in 2005 in order to build a sewage treatment plant, and he was forced to go back to the drawing board.

The second property Lovingier found for Lovacres made the incident seem like a blessing in disguise.

“The new place is pretty spectacular,” said Lovingier of the 550-acre property, which is located in Northern San Diego County at the base of the Palomar Mountain range. “It’s a great place to trail ride, and I get to really spend time with these babies and watch them grow up. I don’t mean to brag, but if it’s not the nicest farm in California, it’s probably one of the nicest.”

Around 100 mares owned by Lovingier and outside clients call Lovacres home. The farm also stands three other stallions: Bushwacker (by Outflanker), Time to Get Even (by Stephen Got Even), and Grace Upon Grace (by Rio Verde).

Even though Lovingier has bred several stakes winners in the past, the story of Willa B Awesome, his first graded victor, will always stand out as especially sweet. He was present when the filly took her first steps, and even if he sells her down the road, she’ll remain in his heart until she takes her last.

“I was there when she was born…she stood up really quick, within 20-30 minutes,” said Lovingier, who privately purchased Willa B Awesome’s second dam, the Saros mare Takenbyherbeauty, in the 1990s. Lovingier, whose breeding philosophy centers on matching individuals based on body type rather than nicking patterns, bred Willa B Awesome from the Nineeleven mare Cause I’m Tricky.

“(Willa B Awesome) was a good-sized baby—about 145 pounds,” he said. “She was very correct, easy-going, and always a doll.”

Lovingier has a lot to look forward to with the rest of Willa B Awesome’s 2012 campaign on the horizon, plus several other promising young horses in training. The Santa Ysabel winner will most likely continue racing on the California circuit.

“We’ll probably keep her out here and keep her close so (the partners) can watch and have fun with her,” said Lovingier of Willa B Awesome, who is stabled at Hollywood Park. “There are a couple of big (West Coast) races she could go back for.”

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