Essence Hit Man is set to defend his title in the $150,000 Kennedy Road Stakes (gr. III) Nov. 25 at Woodbine, and his start will come just days after the passing of his trainer and owner, Audre Cappuccitti.
Cappuccitti, who owned and bred Essence Hit Man in partnership with her husband, Gordon, passed away Nov. 19 at age 75. She conditioned last year's champion sprinter to three added-money scores in 2012, including the Vigil and Bold Venture Stakes (both grade III).
The 5-year-old Speightstown
gelding will make his first start since a fourth-place finish in a 6 1/2-furlong turf allowance Aug. 6, and will be saddled by Dave Cotey in the six-furlong Kennedy Road, race eight of 10 with an approximate post time of 4:24 p.m. EST.
Paul Wilson, who worked with Cappuccitti for 17 years, including the past nine as her assistant, noted the late trainer had been preparing the speedy gelding specifically for this event.
"This is what Audre wanted, he's training super," said Wilson. "Audre gave him some time off at the farm, this race comes up at the end of the year, and she was pointing him to this race before she passed. Everything has been done right and now it's up to the jockey and the horse. I hope she's looking down on us."
Essence Hit Man established Woodbine's track record of 1:08.16 at the distance with a scintillating score in the 2011 edition of the Jacques Cartier Stakes. Wilson expects jockey Jesse Campbell will stick with the popular sprinter's trademark running style.
"He's a speed demon," said Wilson. "You cannot take him off of his game. He's a crack sprinter and it's a game of catch me if you can."
Essence Hit Man surged to a 1 1/4-length victory in last year's Kennedy Road in a rapid 1:08.75, and has been lighting up the main track in the morning with a string of bullet works, including a five-panel breeze in 1:01.20 Nov. 16.
An emotional Wilson admitted that it has been a difficult week for the entire barn. He would love to see Essence Hit Man complete his campaign with a win.
"Audre was like a mother figure to me and very instrumental in my life," said Wilson. "It's hard to continue knowing she's not here with us, but her legacy has to go on. Hopefully next year, there will be bigger and better things. Year to year she always looked forward with great expectations and I just want to make her happy."
Providing steep opposition in the Kennedy Road will be Connaught Cup (gr. II) winner Something Extra
, who enters the sprint on Woodbine's all weather track off a front-running score in the seven-furlong Mt. Sassafras Stakes.
Win or lose, Wilson knows that Cappuccitti, who won 537 career races, including 35 stakes scores, has left behind a considerable legacy.
"She's an icon to females in racing in her own right. She's done a lot for the industry," said Wilson. "She will be missed."
$150,000 Kennedy Road Stakes (gr. III, Race 8, approximate post 4:24 p.m. EST) 3YOs & Up, six furlongs (all weather track)
PP., Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Bear Tough Tiger (FL), J. Stein, 115, R Baker
2. Essence Hit Man (ON), J.M. Campbell, 124, D Cotey
3. Court of the Realm (KY), L. Contreras, 115, P Berringer
4. Something Extra (KY), E.R. Da Silva, 121, G Cox
5. Havelock (MD), J.V. Bridgmohan, 119, D Miller
6. Bear No Joke (ON), E. Wilson, 115, R Baker
7. Artic Fern (ON), T. Pizarro, 117, M Keogh
8. Fatal Bullet (FL), P. Husbands, 115, R Baker
9. Night Officer (MD), F. Boyce, 117, B R Brown