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Eaton's Gift Fights On For Matt Winn Victory

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/17/2008 #

(May 17, 2008) – Zayat Stables’ Eaton’s Gift turned back a strong challenge from Devereux in deep stretch and inched clear late for a 1 ½-length victory in Saturday’s $108,800 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. Ling Ling Qi, the 9-5 favorite in the field of seven 3-year-olds, finished third.

Eaton’s Gift, the 3 ½-length winner of the Swale Stakes (Grade II) at Gulfstream Park in February, stopped the teletimer in 1:09.48 for six furlongs over a “fast” track under jockey Elvis Trujillo.

“The horse is a very good horse,” said Trujillo, who rode three winners Saturday at Churchill Downs. “I knew I had a good chance. The other horse put up a fight, but the stretch is long and I tried to save a little bit for the last bit of distance. He ran very good.”

Dale Romans, the eight-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs, saddled the Matt Winn winner for the second year in a row. Last year, he won the race with Spin Master.

Devereux broke on top, but St. Joe quickly assumed the early lead with Eaton’s Gift in close pursuit. St. Joe clipped off the first quarter mile in :21.43, but faded when Eaton’s Gift assumed the lead midway through the turn for home. Devereux drew even with the eventual winner from the outside at the top of the stretch with Ling Ling Qi in close proximity. Eaton’s Gift, however, was determined and never relinquished the lead.

The 3-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Johannesburg won for the fourth time in eight career starts. The $66,107 winner’s share of the purse jumped his earnings to $232,005. He rebounded from a seventh-place finish in the $100,000 Derby Trial three weeks ago.

“He’s a good horse,” Romans said. “Things really didn’t work out right for him in the Derby Trial, but we know he’s better than that. That’s why we wheeled him back pretty quick. He’s been training good and this is the way we expected him to run.”

Eaton’s Gift returned $6, $4.20 and $2.60 as the 2-1 second betting choice. Devereux, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, paid $4.80 and $2.80. Ling Ling Qi, with Jesus Castanon in the saddle, returned $2.60.

Romans, who helped lure Trujillo to ride at Churchill Downs, said that the jockey would be his go-to jockey.

“Since Mark (Guidry) retired, I haven’t had a consistent stable rider at Churchill and I asked him to come up and he did, and I’m glad he did. He’ll be my main guy. I have some horses that I’ve already committed to other riders, but he’s going to be my main man.”

Jockey & Trainer Quotes

DALE ROMANS, trainer of EATON’S GIFT (winner)

“He ran a big race.”

Q: He disappointed you a bit in the Derby Trial (when he finished 7th, beaten 11 ¾ lengths), but today was a different day…

“He’s a good horse. Things really didn’t work out right for him in the Derby Trial, but we know he’s better than that. That’s why we wheeled him back pretty quick. He’s been training good and this is the way we expected him to run.”

Q: The runner-up looked like he had a chance to go by, but Eaton’s Gift wouldn’t let him pass…

“He wouldn’t let him by and that’s what he’s done every time he’s run, with the exception of just a couple of starts. He’s tough.”

Q: Had you ridden Elvis Trujillo before?

“I rode him one time, that I can remember, in Florida this winter. He broke his leg and it put him out of action for six weeks. But we’ve been contact a little bit since the meet started and finally I asked him to come up and ride for us. Since Mark (Guidry) retired, I haven’t had a consistent stable rider at Churchill and I asked him to come up and he did, and I’m glad he did.”

Q: Trujillo will be your main rider for the rest of the meet?

“He’ll be my main guy. I have some horses that I’ve already committed to other riders, but he’s going to be my main man.”

Q: What’s going to be next for this horse?

“We’ll just wait and see. Mr. Zayat has so many good horses, we’ll have to avoid some of the others. But we’ll figure out where to go with him.”

ELVIS TRUJILLO, jockey on EATON’S GIFT (winner)

“The horse is a very good horse. I knew I had a good chance. The other horse put up a fight, but the stretch is long and I tried to save a little bit for the last bit of distance. He ran very good.”

Q: So you’ll be here to ride at Churchill Downs for a while…the win is a nice way to start…

“That’s a very good way to start. The horse ran very well.”

STEVE ASMUSSEN, trainer of DEVEREUX (runner-up)

“He ran solid. He’s put two decent races in-a-row together, and we’re just trying to get some consistency with him. He’s a nice horse – we’re just trying to get him past that next step.”

SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey on DEVEREUX (runner-up)

“The other horse came back on him. I thought I had a shot to go by him as my horse ranged up there pretty easily, but the other horse obviously had something left.”

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