07/17/2009 12:00AM

Lovingier likes both his babies


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - When the breeder and owner Terry Lovingier first saw Unbridled Meeting shortly after she was born in April 2007, he did not see a potential racehorse, but a filly he might give away.

When Lovingier saw Grace Upon Grace, he wanted to fast forward the calendar to 2009 and get the colt's career underway.

Over the next 10 days, Grace Upon Grace and Unbridled Meeting will be Lovingier's best chances for a stakes win at Del Mar. Unbridled Meeting is being pointed for Friday's $100,000 California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Stakes. Grace Upon Grace will start in the $100,000 Graduation Stakes on July 29.

Lovingier said he would not be surprised if either won, especially Unbridled Meeting, whom he decided to keep long ago.

"When she was born, I had her ranked fairly low," he said. "By darn, if she didn't get a little bit better and a little bit better. I'd have probably have given her away in the first year and a half."

Grace Upon Grace, by the Lovingier-owned stallion Rio Verde, was fourth in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 12, a race that Lovingier and trainer Walther Solis decided to try when the race drew a small field. Only five started, and Grace Upon Grace was third on the turn before finishing fourth, 6 1/4 lengths behind the filly Necessary Evil.

"He started running at the half-mile mark and made his run a little early," Lovingier said. "He was our number one pick as a 2-year-old. He was the only one we left as a colt. I think he'll get a little better. I think he'll run a good race in the Graduation."

Lovingier, 52, lives in Los Alamitos and has a construction firm that specializes in oil refineries. He said he is in the process of cutting his work commitment to spend more time with horses.

"I cut my days in half," he said. "I'll save the rest for horse racing."

In the last few years, Lovingier has switched his approach to breeding. He still breeds extensively in California, to his stallions Nineeleven and Rio Verde, and the young California-based stallion Awesome Gambler, but also to stallions in Kentucky.

He has bred mares to Kentucky stallions Hold That Tiger, Golden Missile, Kafwain, Lion Heart, Rockport Harbor, and Tapit. He has six yearlings by Tapit, including five fillies.

"If I had a problem with a mare, I'll ship them back" to Kentucky, he said. "I've not bred as many as I have in the last few years. I probably bred 40 or 50 mares to Rio Verde and 20 mares to Nineeleven. I bred a lot of my mares to Awesome Gambler, and he's not my sire."

Unbridled Meeting is out of Cheerful Meeting, a General Meeting mare who was lost to colic earlier this year, Lovingier said. He has a yearling full brother to Unbridled Meeting at his farm, in Murrietta, Calif.

Unbridled Meeting, co-owned by Templeton Horses, won her third start, by four lengths in a five-furlong maiden race at Hollywood Park on June 4.

"She had a little throat problem," he said. "We expected her to win earlier than she did."

Grace Upon Grace is owned by a partnership. He won his debut over 4 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park on April 22 and returned to finish second in the Proctor Stakes, the first stakes for 2-year-olds in Southern California, on June 4.

If one of them were to win this month, it would be a milestone for Lovingier and underscore his favorite aspect of the sport.

"I like getting them from the start," he said. "I love raising the babies more than anything."