Ater has a winner in Sandys Victory
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Ater purchased the 7-year-old female trotter for $8,200 at an auction in November 2016 and has watched the mare win 21 races and $257,435 in purses since then. Sandys Victory's most recent triumph was March 18 in the Open Handicap at Miami Valley Raceway.
For the year, she has won four of nine races, finished second twice, and earned $65,690, which ranks fourth among all trotters in North America.
"I waited my lifetime to find this one, so I doubt I'll find another one," the 63-year-old Ater said with a chuckle. "I'm just thankful I got her. She's been a life changer. We've had nice horses, but I've never had one that I own myself. She's just helping things out.
"It takes a good horse to get you over the hump. I hope every trainer or every owner has that kind of horse because I know how much hard work you put in to it."
Sandys Victory is no stranger to work, either. She has raced 59 times for Ater, making at least three starts a month for 12 consecutive months -- and 15 of the past 16 months overall.
"She's a frequent flyer, I'll tell you that," Ater said. "She's just one of those that shows up and works every week. Those kind are hard to beat. We don't do a lot of work with her, but she's always ready to go do her job and she rarely throws in a bad race."
Ater's son, Kyle, drives Sandys Victory, who has hit the board 39 times for Ater and earned a paycheck a total of 50. Ater does not train the mare often, and gives her plenty of time in the fields at his family farm, where she prefers to hang out with the boys rather than the girls.
"If you put her with another mare they just want to squeal and fight," Ater said. "We turn her out with old Lucky Lime, a gelding, and a couple other geldings and she's out there running right with them."
Sandys Victory, a daughter of Victory Sam out of Amessageforsandy, enjoyed success on the Ohio Sire Stakes circuit for her previous connections, earning $124,491 as a 3 year old. Ater purchased her with the hopes of getting a nice horse for claiming races, but she quickly moved up the ranks to the open level.
"No doubt she wouldn't have been this good if she hadn't been taken care of when she was a young horse," Ater said. "That's the big thing. She was a nice 2 and 3 year old. I could never figure out why she sold for so little (to me). I just got lucky."
Ater, who has been battling cancer for years, set career training highs with 150 wins and $1.53 million in purses in 2017. He plans to continue racing Sandys Victory on a regular basis with the occasional week off here and there.
"I'm just going to keep her in that routine," Ater said. "As long as she's racing good I'm just going to let her be. She's not thin; she looks good, she acts good.
"She's been good to me. She doesn't owe me anything. I just hope she keeps on going because she's sure one of those that's fun to have around." (Ken Weingartner/USTA)