Owner/breeders: Audre & Gord Cappuccitti (ON).

Trainer: Audre Cappuccitti.

The transformation started with a switch to journeyman Jesse Campbell, a strong rider with more than 1700 wins to his name.

“He’s naturally the quickest horse I’ve ever rode,” said Campbell. “His legs are going 100 miles an hour, and it’s not that short, choppy stride of a horse going nowhere a hundred miles an hour, this horse is going somewhere. I don’t want to say scary, but it’s got a bit of an out-of-control feel to it. He’s just going too dang fast.”

It’s not often you hear someone talk about a horse being “too fast”, but…

“It’s a lot of power,” laughed Campbell. “I’ll tell ya, it’s a real weird feeling to be pulling at a horse going :44 flat. Usually you’re all out and going :44 flat. He puts confidence into you. He’s a lot of horse.”

To temper the natural speed, Cappuccitti slowed down Essence Hit Man’s training sessions, allowing the Speightstown-El Prado Essence, by El Prado (Ire) gelding more time on the training track with Campbell.

The new morning routine, and an equipment change outfitting Essence Hit Man with a ring bit, made a significant improvement in Campbell’s ability to control the chestnut’s abundant speed, completing his 2011 campaign with a score in the Grade III Kennedy Road Stakes, and cementing champion status.

In 2012, Essence Hit Man continued his winning ways compiling a record of 3-1-0 from six starts and purse earnings of $379,357.

He opened his campaign by taking the Jacques Cartier Stakes for the second year in a row and then returned with a score in the Grade III Vigil Stakes.

In the Grade II Highlander, Essence Hit Man skipped over a firm E.P Taylor Turf Course reaching the half in :43.83, fighting all the way to the wire, beating all but a rallying Smokey Fire.

Essence Hit Man reclaimed his crown as Canada’s champion sprinter with a memorable win on a Wednesday night card in the Bold Venture Stakes (GIII), a heavyweight bout with fellow speedball Eternal Rule.

Carrying a field-high 124lbs, Essence Hit Man broke sharply from the gate in the five-horse field and set splits of :22.08 and :44.49 with the previously undefeated Eternal Rule stalking from third position.

A determined Eternal Rule appeared to have Essence Hit Man collared with a sixteenth to run, but Campbell kept to task on the competitive chestnut and prevailed by a head under the lights.

“He reached for that wire so hard today,” exclaimed an amped-up Campbell following the win. “What a treat for a Wednesday night race. These horses threw it down today. That’s a horse race, right there.”

Essence Hit Man was sidelined with a minor ailment in August and returned in the Kennedy Road (GII) in November to finish fifth.

The Bold Venture win, on July 18, marked the last time Essence Hit Man would win for Cappuccitti as the conditioner passed away, at the age of 75, following a brief illness on November 19.

Campbell, emotional in the days following Cappuccitti’s passing, lauded the trainer’s good nature.

“I was very upset when I heard the news,” said the veteran rider. “She was a fine lady. She had so much class. She was so happy all the time and so polite.”

“I wish I could have told her something, how I really felt about the impact she’s had on me both personally and professionally. We had a very good relationship. She gave me a lot of respect when I first came to Woodbine two years ago. She trusted me and would listen to what I would say. I know like everyone else, I’ll truly miss her.”

Her legacy, however, will live on through the many horses she posed with in the winner’s circle, especially Essence Hit Man, the first horse to be bestowed the honour of repeating as the nation’s top sprinter.