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Six Stakes on Winter Carnival Card Saturday at Laurel Park

Laurel Park
The Laurel Park summer meeting gets underway on Friday (Photo credit: Maryland Jockey Club).

Graded-stakes placed shippers Pass the Champagne and Union Lake will meet Fille d’Esprit and Swayin to and Fro, multiple stakes winners over their home track, in a competitive edition of the $250,000 Barbara Fritchie (G3) Saturday, Feb. 18 at Laurel Park.

The 69th running of the Barbara Fritchie for fillies and mares 4 and older and the 48th renewal of the $250,000 General George (G3) for 4-year-olds and up, both sprinting seven furlongs, co-headline a Winter Carnival program at Laurel Park featuring six stakes worth $900,000 in purses.

Post time for the first of 10 races is 12:25 p.m.

R.A. Hill Stable, Black Type Thoroughbreds, Rock Ridge Racing, BlackRidge Stables and James Brown’s Pass the Champagne is a 5-year-old Flatter mare making just her seventh career start after lengthy pauses due to minor setbacks the past two years.

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“These racehorses force you to be patient. When they ask you to be patient and you’re not, you end up going the wrong way. This filly asked us to be patient, so we were, and we’re hoping it pays off,” trainer George Weaver said. “If you don’t have the talent, everything else is a moot point. The talent she has. Now it’s up to getting lucky enough for her to let her show it in the afternoon against some good fillies.”

Pass the Champagne Headlines Fritchie Field

Pass the Champagne was purchased privately following her January 2021 debut at Gulfstream Park and graduated the following month in the first start for her new connections. From there they stepped her up to the Ashland (G1), where she was beaten a head by subsequent two-time champion Malathaat.

After finishing off the board in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Pass the Champagne went to the sidelines and returned with a 2 ¾-length optional claiming allowance victory last February at Gulfstream. She went unraced again until Jan. 14, when she was second by a head in the 1 1/16-mile Wayward Lass at Tampa Bay Downs.

“It just seemed like an appropriate race to get her back on track,” Weaver said. “We’ve kind of been of the mind that she’s a better one-turn filly and that was a two-turn race. We’re looking forward to getting back to a one-turn race. Seven-eighths or a flat mile, one-turn situation is probably best for her.”

Jockey Angel Cruz gets the riding assignment on Pass the Champagne from Post 3 in a field of eight.

“She ran well at Tampa. She ran a good number and performed well. Considering the long layoff, it was big effort,” Weaver said. “The Barbara Fritchie is a graded-stake and there’s some nice fillies in there so we’re not coming in there thinking we own the place or anything, but our filly is talented. She’s always trained like she’s a good filly, so now’s the chance to show it.”

Steven Schoenfeld’s Union Lake broke her maiden second time out and won an open allowance last summer in New York, both against older horses, before finishing third in the six-furlong Prioress (G2) at Saratoga behind multiple graded-stakes winner Wicked Halo, who ran third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) in November.

A 4-year-old daughter of Speightster, Union Lake ran a troubled ninth in her only previous try at seven furlongs, the Raven Run (G2) last fall at Keeneland, but returned with a 3 ½-length optional claiming allowance score over her elders sprinting 6 ½ furlongs Dec. 31 at Aqueduct.

“Last time everything went well. We’ve liked her right from the start. She just needed some time to develop and we kind of brought her along steadily. She had a little bit of a misfire there at Keeneland back in October but she rebounded well from that,” New York-based trainer John Terranova said. “She came out of it well and regrouped. She came back to her good form and has trained on forward for this. We’ve had this race in mind since the last.”

Eric Cancel comes in from New York to ride from Post 6.

“We’ll see how she takes her show on the road and go from there. She’s very talented, if not as seasoned as some of the mares in there,” Terranova said. “We’ve thought highly of her all along. We had her pegged as one of those that could be a stakes-level type. She’s developed real nice and matured, and it’s time to take on some of the big girls now and see how we do.”

Fille d’Esprit Owns Dozen Wins at Laurel Park

C J I Phoenix Group and No Guts No Glory Farm’s Fille d’Esprit owns 14 career wins, 12 of them coming in 19 starts at Laurel, where she is based with trainer and co-owner Jerry Robb. Four of her local wins have come in stakes including three of her last four races – the Maryland Million Distaff and Politely last fall and six-furlong What a Summer Jan. 21 by 5 ¼ lengths.

“She came out of the race real well and breezed [Saturday] morning real well,” Robb said. “We’re looking forward to the race.”

Regular rider Xavier Perez climbs back aboard from outermost Post 8.

Baxter Racing Stable’s Swayin to and Fro won the seven-furlong Safely Kept and 6 ½-furlong Willa On the Move – the latter over Fille d’Esprit, who ran fourth – last fall and winter at Laurel for trainer Mario Serey Jr. She is six-for-nine at Laurel, finishing second as the favorite last out in the What a Summer.

Richard Monterrey rides Swayin to and Fro from Post 5.

Rounding out the field are Liscolvin, second to Swayin to and Fro in the Safely Kept in her most recent start; Moody Woman, fourth in the Safely Kept and third in the Weather Vane last fall at Pimlico; 2021 Cheryl S. White Memorial winner Prodigy Doll; and 2022 Peach Blossom Runner up Quiet Imagination.