Essence Hit Man launched his 2011 campaign in blistering style, setting a track record of 1:08.16 for six furlongs while taking the US$174,973 Jacques Cartier Stakes (VIDEO) by two lengths April 17 at Woodbine.
With Patrick Husbands at the controls in the Polytrack event, Essence Hit Man, a 4-year-old son of Speightstown —El Prado Essence, fired from the gate, quickly opening a 3 1/2-length lead on his four pursuers while getting the opening quarter in :21.98.
Essence Hit Man was challenged by Canada’s 2008 Horse of the Year Fatal Bullet, who had charged through on the inside turning for home after the half was timed in :43.86. But the winner drew off boldly at mid-stretch, then had plenty left for the late bid of favored Signature Red. Fatal Bullet finished three-quarters of a length farther back in third.
The winning time was .15 of a second quicker than Legal Move’s former mark of 1:08.31, set July 2, 2008. Essence Hit Man carried top weight of 124 pounds, giving up to nine pounds to his rivals.
The victory left his Ontario trainer, breeder and co-owner, Audre Cappuccitti, nearly speechless.
“Never, honestly never," he responded when asked if expected such a smashing performance. "I went off all by myself in a corner and watched the whole race. I thought it was really a tough race. They’re lovely horses …all of them.
"I expected him to go out fast, but when they started to come, I thought he was getting a little tired. Some of them were breezing five-eighths before he was (this spring). I was thrilled. Patrick rode him great.
“I’d like to try some different things with him this year," Cappuccitti added. "We’d like to try him again on turf and one day try to bring him off the pace. But he’s lightning quick out of the gate, that’s for sure, so I don’t know if we’ll be able to do anything with him down the road.”
Last year was a banner season for Essence Hit Man, as the chestnut gelding won three stakes in seven starts: the Woodstock, Queenston and Achievement, in addition to a solid second-place finish to Discreetly Mine in the Amsterdam (gr. II) at Saratoga. He had not raced since finishing third in the King Corrie Stakes Sept. 22 at Woodbine, finishing the year with $361,021 in the bank.
Last year, Hollywood Hit captured the Jacques Cartier en route to a Sovereign Award as Canada’s top male sprinter.
Essence Hit Man pocketed $112,482 for the victory to push his career bankroll to $573,463 in only 13 starts. He has six wins.
Sent off as the 3-1 second choice, Essence Hit Man returned $8.30, $3.80 and $2.10, combining with the 3-2 choice Signature Red ($3.20, $2.20) for a $25.50 exacta. Fatal Bullet, $2.10 to show, was part of $2 trifecta paying $46.90. Sports Select and Cold Harbor followed.