A son of Johannesburg, Eaton’s Gift entered off a seventh-place finish in the Dec. 22 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Hollywood Park, as he tired in the final furlong of the 1 1/16-mile test after setting the pace for six furlongs.
The 6 ½-furlong Swale, an event for 3-year-olds on the main track, proved to be the right distance for Eaton’s Gift, whose other two victories also came in sprints, both in gate-to-wire fashion. It was his first graded stakes triumph.
Under the handling of Kent Desormeaux, Eaton’s Gift broke from post two and shot right to the lead, posting an aggressive :21.99 opening quarter. Wincat, the 3-2 favorite, stalked the pace early on, while Silver Edition, Coal Play, and St. Joe all ran together on the backstretch.
Eaton’s Gift continued to set the pace through a blazing :44.20 half mile, with Wincat, under John Velazquez, continuing to chase, and Coal Play in perfect striking position, three-wide in third as they came out of the final turn. At the top the stretch Silver Edition, the runner-up in the Jan. 5 Hutcheson (gr. II), advanced towards the rail.
But Eaton’s Gift, who ran three-quarters in 1:08.99, still with plenty in the tank, had a four-length lead as they straightened away. The Kentucky-bred colt extended his lead by the sixteenth-pole and continued to run strong to the wire. The final time was 1:15.63.
“He’s a fast horse and from the two post we pretty much had to go (lead)," Romans said. "We didn’t want to get him covered up. There were several factors in his last race. We had to ship and didn’t really have a lot of time to train for two turns like would we would if the race was back home. I don’t think the surface (Cushion Track) at Hollywood was a problem.
"I’m not sure what’s next. When you have a fast 3-year-old at this time of the year, you always think about stretching them out. We’ll talk to Mr. (Ahmad) Zayat and then come up with a plan.”
Desormeaux said: "Dale told me to take advantage of the inside post. He bounded from the gate and took the lead. No one gave it to him, he just took it. He was very comfortable there. Normally, when a horse turns back (in distance), you’re concerned if they’ll be void of speed. He was very fast today.
"I wasn’t concerned about the three (Surrealdeal) closing in on me; I was watching TV (infield board) the last eighth of a mile.”
Chester Bishop’s Surrealdeal, a 56-1 longshot, closed energetically from the outside to get second, a neck in front of Wincat. Silver Edition was fourth.
Out of the Carson City mare Kit’s Girl, Eaton’s Gift went off as the 7-2 third choice, paying $9.60, $5, and $3.40. The $2 exacta (2-3) returned $246.20, while the $2 trifecta was worth $909.80.
Bred by Donarra Thoroughbreds, Eaton’s Gift broke his maiden by 4 ½ lengths Oct. 19 at Keeneland, then came back three weeks later and won his first allowance try at Churchill Downs. The bay colt was a $150,000 purchase at the Keeneland 2006 September yearling sale.
Mr. Foz finished fifth, followed by Coal Play and St. Joe.