Three major goals loom on the horizon for South Australia’s leading jockey.
Far from inching towards the relatively rare goal of outriding her apprentice’s claim, Jess Eaton is approaching it at warp speed.
Eaton rode a treble at Morphettville Parks last Saturday and now needs just seven winners from the remaining seven city-class meetings before her apprenticeship expires.
However, courtesy of her outstanding results since relocating to SA from Victoria in mid-2020, the 27-year-old is also a runaway leader in the SA metropolitan jockeys’ premiership, sitting eight wins clear of second-placed Todd Pannell, who won the title in 2019-20.
Both would be exceptional achievements – but success at the upcoming Adelaide autumn carnival would qualify as a dream trifecta for Eaton, who arrived in SA with a 3kg claim, a three-month plan and fingers crossed.
“I remember telling my partner James (Tzaferis, of Racing.com) that if I could get my claim down to one and a half before my time ends I’d be extremely proud of myself,” she said.
“I guess a lot of times since I’ve had to stop, reflect and see how far I’ve come, and to realise that I’ve already achieved big goals I’ve set for myself.
“But now I’m able to push further beyond that and try to achieve newer and even bigger goals.
“I’m really happy with how things are going – the sacrifices I’ve made throughout my apprenticeship have been worthwhile.”
Outriding her claim and winning the metropolitan jockeys’ premiership were hardly front of mind for Jess when she crossed the border, seeking more opportunities.
Now they are more probable than possible.
“Yep, outriding my claim is definitely a goal that I’m trying very hard to achieve,” she said.
“Transition into a senior will obviously be uncharted territory for me, so I don’t know how my support will go when I do become a senior.
“But I’ll try to make sure I’m riding at my best to hopefully hold that spot on the premiership.”
Eaton is quick to acknowledge the role Murray Bridge trainer Michael Hickmott has played in her remarkable rise.
“I can’t stress enough that the timing has been perfect,” she said.
“Michael has always had those quality horses there, they just haven’t been ready to be exposed yet.
“It’s been a blessing that Michael has been so supportive to me.”
Eaton hopes her association with the Hickmott stable can lead to even bigger things during the Adelaide autumn carnival.
“I’m very excited to see what the little filly Echoes in Eternity is going to do,” she said.
“I think she’s quite a lot of ability and hopefully she’s got some big targets.
“Ritratto for Mick Huxtable is obviously a very talented horse too and hopefully he can step up to some nice races as well.”
Eaton also thanked riding coach Darryn Murphy for his influence on her development – and Murphy had some interesting observations of his own, including a comment on her results last weekend.
“Jess can ride a horse back in the field and bring it home with a late run, but she can also be proactive when she needs to be,” he said.
“On the Parks track you need to be more proactive than on the bigger track (and) that’s an area where I’ve been mentoring Jess with.
“When she first came over she was riding the Parks track similar to how she was riding the outer track. She was probably finding herself two or three lengths further back than where she needed to be midrace to win the race.
“But she’s adjusted.”
Murphy said Eaton’s natural ability had been part of her improvement.
“Jess is really skilled on both sides of her body and always has been,” she said.
“But lately but she’s gone to another level. She’s now more composed in the run to the finish, which she’s worked on.
“And she’s been able to put one race behind her and move quickly onto the next one.”