Swayin to and Fro scores in G3 Barbara Fritchie

Baxter Racing Stable’s Swayin to and Fro sat off long shot pacesetter Liscolvin for a half-mile before taking the lead, turned back Grade 1-placed shipper Pass the Champagne and held off late-running Fille d’Esprit to become a graded-stakes winner in Saturday’s $250,000 Barbara Fritchie (G3) at Laurel Park.

The 71st running of the Barbara Fritchie for fillies and mares 4 and older sprinting seven furlongs was the fifth of six stakes worth $900,000 in purses on a Winter Carnival program co-headlined by the 47th renewal of the $250,000 General George (G3) for 4-year-old and up.

Swayin to and Fro ($14.40) completed the distance in 1:23.75 over a fast main track to provide trainer Mario Serey Jr. and jockey Richard Monterrey with their first graded-stakes victories. Serey claimed the 4-year-old South Carolina bred for $16,000 last May at historic Pimlico Race Course and won eight of 13 subsequent starts including four stakes.

“I told everybody when I claimed this filly and I saw the potential and I saw the talent, every race she proved it. I’m so proud of her. This is a great, great filly,” Serey said. “When I claimed her, I talked to the owner and [said], ‘This is a stakes winner.’ The class and the talent of the horse, they tell you right away.”

The speedy Swayin to and Fro was content to let 21-1 shot Liscolvin take the early lead, going the opening quarter-mile in 22.44 seconds. Monterrey, aboard for the first time, sat chilly in second until taking over the top spot following a half in 45.20 tracked by Pass the Champagne, making just her seventh start and second in 12 months.

Richard Monterrey exults after winning the Fritchie. Photo by Allison Janezic.

Swayin to and Fro extended her lead after going six furlongs in 1:10.47 having put away Pass the Champagne and fellow graded-stakes placed shipper Union Lake. Multiple stakes winner Fille d’Esprit, who snapped Swayin to and Fro’s two-stakes win streak in the Jan. 21 What a Summer, was beginning to roll on the far outside and make a strong late bid but came up a half-length short.

Moody Woman finished third, followed by Pass the Champagne, Prodigy Doll, Quiet Imagination, Union Lake and Liscolvin.

“I told Richie, ‘Break her good, get in a good position and make her comfortable. If nobody follows you, she’s OK. She can go to the lead. When you come to the straight and you feel a ton of horse in your hands, just wait and at the quarter pole let her go,’” Serey said. “All the good horses make it easy. She doesn’t need much. She’s a sweet filly. Today she showed she can win the Grade 3.”

Monterrey, who turns 39 next month, is a native of Venezuela who won his first race in the U.S. in 2003 at Gulfstream Park. A Mid-Atlantic regular who did not ride between 2017 and 2020, he owns 775 career victories.

“I have a lot of emotions and feelings going on in my heart and mind. So much joy and gratitude for the opportunity Mario and the owners gave me to ride this amazing filly. From the get-go, she wanted to go. To win my first graded-stakes with her and Mario, I am blessed,” Monterrey said.

“Five years ago I was watching this race from home and I told my wife, ‘I’m going to be riding that race one day,’” he added. “Turns out I am the winner. I lost my passion when you struggle. But that time I was away showed me so much gratitude for the things I love, and that’s riding horses. I appreciate every horse I ride.”