Essence Hit Man, Canada’s champion sprinter in 2011 and 2012, makes his much anticipated return in Wednesday night’s $100,000 Ontario Jockey Club Stakes, at Woodbine.
Trained by Larry Cappuccitti for A & G Racing Stable, the now eight-year-old chestnut last raced on November 30, 2013 when second in the Grade 2 Kennedy Road Stakes. Essence Hit Man has hooked a loaded field for his return including the reigning sprint champion Calgary Cat and Alpha Bettor, Canada’s champion older horse of 2013.
Essence Hit Man boasts a remarkable record of 12-7-3 from 28 starts including graded stakes wins in the Grade 3 Kennedy Road (2011), Grade 3 Vigil (2012) and Grade 3 Bold Venture (2012, 2013).
It has been a long, patient road back for the champion sprinter.
“He had tie-back surgery on his throat and we gave him last year off and brought him back this year. If he wanted to run, we’d run him. But if he didn’t want to race, we’d retire him to our farm,” said Cappuccitti. “He’s just like Deputy Inxs (a multiple Sovereign Award wining sprinter for the Cappuccitti family) to us. Deputy Inxs is 24-years-old now, but he’s still happy, healthy and retired on our farm.”
Essence Hit Man made his way back to the work tab at Woodbine on April 25 with a two furlong breeze in :23.60 over Woodbine’s dirt training track and has worked his way up to a recent five-panel effort on the Woodbine ‘Poly’ in 1:00.60.
Of the 14 timed workouts recorded by Essence Hit Man working towards his return, seven have been ‘bullet’ works as the fastest recorded breeze of the day. However, it was a six furlong breeze in 1:14 flat over the Woodbine dirt training track on June 27 that alerted Cappuccitti his horse was set for a return to racing.
“I wanted to see him work three-quarters and once he did that I knew he was ready. We’ve tried to get him entered a few times, but the races didn’t go. But, we’re in now and I’m hoping he will shine,” said Cappuccitti.
Originally trained by Larry’s mother, the late Audre Cappuccitti, the swift Essence Hit Man, who owns the track record time of 1:08.16 for six furlongs at Woodbine, became a fan favourite thanks to his spectacular, ‘first out, first home’, performances on the track.
“I know he’s a very popular horse because I get asked about him all the time at Woodbine and even on Facebook,” said Cappuccitti. “I had a racing fan from England reach out to ask for a pair of Essence Hit Man’s shoes and I was able to send a couple over to him.”
Ultimately, Cappuccitti is hopeful that Essence Hit Man can provide the family with another memorable night at the races on Wednesday.
“He’s been a special horse for us. He’s a homebred and my mum had him from day one. She did a tremendous job to keep him healthy and winning as many races as he did,” said Cappuccitti. “As long as he wants to be out there and stays healthy, I’m happy. He’s a classy horse and he wants to run.”
Luis Contreras will pilot Essence Hit Man for the first time in a race that Cappuccitti knows will be no walkover.
“It’s a very tough field. I wish we could have got an allowance into him first because the rest of these horses already have a few races under their belts and we know that Calgary Cat is a top horse,” said Cappuccitti.
Stephen Chesney and Cory Hoffman’s Sovereign Award winning sprinter Calgary Cat arrives at Wednesday night’s six furlong ‘Poly’ sprint with two wins from three starts on the meet including a scores in the Jacques Cartier and Achievement Stakes.
Trained by Kevin Attard, the Cowtown Cat chestnut enjoyed a remarkable 2014 campaign winning five of seven starts including wins in the Grade 3 Bold Venture and Grade 2 Kennedy Road Stakes. Eurico Rosa da Silva will once again take the reins on the champion who has won seven of his last 10 starts.
Alpha Bettor, a chestnut son of Alphabet Soup, arrives in winning form following a narrow nose score in a six furlong allowance over Ontario Jockey Club Stakes rival Puntrooskie.
Trained by Dan Vella for Bulldog Racing, Alpha Better earned honours as the nation’s Champion Older Male in 2013 on the back of victories in the G2 Autumn, G2 Eclipse and G3 Seagram Cup when traveling a distance of ground. However, his past two scores have come in sprint races on the Woodbine ‘Poly’. Justin Stein retains the mount on the now seven-year-old gelding.
Speightsong and Sorry About That complete the field.
Although the Ontario Jockey Club field contains numerous stakes winners, the anticipation from fans and horsemen alike for the return of the champion sprinter is palpable. Perhaps no one is more anxious for a return to racing than the horse itself.
“He’s an active horse and has a real personality to him. When the first set goes out to train in the morning, if he’s not with them he gets rank. He wants to be out there,” said Cappuccitti.
The Ontario Jockey Club Stakes is slated as Race 6 on Wednesday night’s eight-race card. First post time is 6:45 p.m. Fans can watch and wager on all the action via HPIBet.com.
FIELD FOR THE $100,000 ONTARIO JOCKEY CLUB STAKES
POST / HORSE / JOCKEY / TRAINER
1 / Essence Hit Man / Luis Contreras / Larry Cappuccitti
2 / Speightsong / Patrick Husbands / Malcolm Pierce
3 / Puntrooskie / Jesse Campbell / Nick Gonzalez
4 / Calgary Cat / Eurico Rosa da Silva / Kevin Attard
5 / Sorry About That / Omar Moreno / Luis Silvera
6 / Alpha Bettor / Justin Stein / Dan Vella