Sandra Sweere Tends To Growing Stable

Sandra Sweere and Tember Graves

By Katie Merritt

Trainer Sandra Sweere and her daughter Tember may not officially be from Minnesota, but they are quick to claim Prior Lake, just a few miles down the road from Canterbury, as home. “I grew up in Iowa, we’re from Iowa,” Sweere explained, “But I had brothers and sisters over this way, so we migrated in this direction.” Tember lives in Prior Lake year-round, staying through the winters to do her big-kid job, counseling, while mom heads to Fonner Park in Nebraska for a few months in the winter, racing and preparing for the Canterbury meet every summer.

Sweere doesn’t come from a racing background, but she has always been involved in the equine world in some capacity. “There used to be a vet clinic across the street, and I worked there, I did the anesthesia and I was a vet tech, and we did track stuff too. That’s actually how I got involved in the track,” Sweere explained. When the vet clinic closed down, she went and got a “real job”, as she called it. That real job was raising halter and pleasure paint horses, which she did for quite a few years. Then she bought a two-year-old Thoroughbred and took it to Canterbury.

While she trained her initial one horse barn, she ended up taking a job working for Troy Bethke. Tember joined her a couple years later, after finishing grad school. “I graduated in Phoenix in 2009, and in 2011, I couldn’t find a job in my field, so I came up and was a groom, working for Troy too.” Sandra worked for Troy for a few years, while training a couple of her own horses, and a horse or two for friends. “I just wanted to play with my own,” Sandra smiled, in reference to her once small stable.

In only a few years, Sandra’s barn has more than tripled in numbers. “Our big owner, he called me five years ago, and wanted me to train for him, and Tember said ‘Do it! Do it! Do it!’” Sweere also still trains a couple of her own, a handful for other friends, and a couple for Enrique, her assistant. “He brings up a couple from Ocala every year, and this year he got lucky – he had Vallestina, she won by 17, and she was gone two days later. Sold and gone to run at Del Mar,” Sweere said. “Enrique is a big help. He’s been with me the whole time. He used to gallop for Troy. Troy tells me, ‘you’re stealing my help!’” Sandra grinned. Enrique’s not the only one to come out of the Bethke barn. Tember’s handsome gray pony was once there as well, “He was one of Troy’s horses, and I knew she loved him when she worked there. I bought him for her birthday in 2011.”

It is easy to see why Sandra’s barn continues to grow, just by looking at the numbers. From 296 career starters, she has had 42 firsts, 40 seconds and 34 thirds – about 15% winners and 40% in the money. Though Tember has her “real” job as a counselor, you can still find her in mom’s barn on mornings and weekends, and helping at the races, “feeding the disease” as her mom calls it – or getting her racetrack fix. The mother/daughter teamwork and long-term employees like Enrique are clearly integral parts of the successful barn.

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