02/02/2008 12:00AM

Eaton's Gift controls Swale start to finish

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - With Eaton's Gift starting from an inside post over a speed-favoring track, it was not difficult to guess trainer Dale Romans's strategy for Saturday's $150,000 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park: Go to the front and don't look back.

Things don't always work out as planned, but in this case they did. Jockey Kent Desormeaux put Eaton's Gift on the lead from the outset of the 6 1/2-furlong Swale, and 1:15.63 later he crossed the finish line an easy 3 1/2-length winner over 56-1 shot Surrealdeal. Wincat, the 3-2 favorite, finished a tiring third.

Eaton's Gift ($9.60), a son of Johannesburg owned by the Zayat Stables, won an early duel with the previously undefeated Wincat, who bobbled briefly leaving the gate. Eaton's Gift shook off his early pursuer when urged in early stretch, and was never seriously threatened thereafter. Surrealdeal rallied down the middle of the track to outfinish Wincat by a neck to be second.

"Dale told me to take advantage of the inside post," said Desormeaux, who broke from post 2. "He bounded from the gate and took the lead. No one gave it to him. He just took it. He was very fast today."

Romans, who won the 2006 Swale with Sharp Humor, knew speed had been playing well here this winter.

"Out of post 2 we had to go to the front," said Romans. "I didn't want anyone to cover us up. And speed is always dangerous at this track."

Romans said he would likely try to stretch Eaton's Gift out for his next start despite the colt's disappointing seventh-place finish going 1 1/16 miles in Hollywood Park's Grade 1 CashCall Futurity in his 2-year-old finale.

"If you have a fast 3-year-old this time of year, you have to think about stretching him out, so we'll try it again," said Romans. "I think I can get him to stay two turns. It will just take a lot of work to get him there."