When it comes to horses with blinding speed, owner, trainer and breeder Audre Cappuccitti really knows her stuff. Cappuccitti, who along with her husband Gord have bred and raced horses for almost three decades, has been known for unleashing some star sprinters: horses such as champions Deputy Inxs and El Prado Essence.
Along comes Essence Hit Man, easily one of the quickest horses the Ontario racing scene has seen in several years. As a son of El Prado Essence, Essence Hit Man was named Canada’s Champion Male Sprinter for 2011 based on a season that saw him lower the mark for six furlongs on Woodbine’s Polytrack surface.
A finalist in this category for the 2010 racing season, Essence Hit Man is a son of American sprint champion Speightstown, who raced for Eugene Melnyk.
A two-time winner as a two-year-old, Essence Hit Man won the Queenston Stakes, considered a Queen’s Plate prep race, as a three-year-old in 2010 but the Cappuccitti’s kept the fleet gelding in shorter races. He went on to win over $360,000 as a sophomore but he lost out to Hollywood Hit for champion male sprinter honours.
A much more polished and mature Essence Hit Man appeared in the spring of 2011 and it was his season debut that was perhaps his most titillating.
Under jockey Patrick Husbands, the chestnut was long gone of his four rivals in the Jacques Cartier Stakes and won comfortably by two lengths in a stunning 1:08 for six furlongs, a track record. “I expected him to go out fast, but when they started to come, I thought he was getting a little tired,” said Cappuccitti. “Some of (his rivals) were breezing five-eighths before he was (this spring). I was thrilled.”
The waters got a bit deeper for the gelding as 2011 continued along. He finished second in the seven furlong Vigil Stakes (GIII) to Stunning Stag, leading late after setting a ferociously hot pace. On the turf in the Highlander (GII) on Queen’s Plate day, the gelding confirmed his dislike for the green and faded to seventh. Three weeks later he returned to the main track and faded to fourth behind nemesis Hollywood Hit in the Bold Venture Stakes.
Cappuccitti took advantage of the light sprint stakes schedule at Woodbine in the late summer to freshen up her star gelding. He came back with a roar on Oct. 30 to be second in the prep for the Kennedy Road Stakes (GIII) before taking down the big event by 1 1/4 lengths at 7 to 1.
A change in bits for the gelding gave his new rider Jesse Campbell a bit more ability to control the gelding. “I had Jesse come back and breeze him after the last race, and I changed the equipment and said, ‘let’s see if this will help’,” said Cappuccitti. “He (Campbell) came back and said it really worked. He had a tiny bit more control. It’s not that he’s (Essence Hit Man) tough, he just wants to go and if you try to strangle him, it just doesn’t work.”
Essence Hit Man’s career earnings of $742,261 continues to draw closer to the bankroll earned by his successful dam, who collected over $890,000 in winnings. And just two days following the Sovereign Awards ceremony, Essence Hit Man began 2012 with another scintillating effort: another win in the Jacques Cartier. It could be a another big year for one of this country’s most exciting thoroughbreds.