Essence Hit Man launched his 2011 campaign in blistering style, setting a track record of 1:08.16 for six furlongs, while taking the featured $168,000 Jacques Cartier Stakes, Sunday at Woodbine.

With Patrick Husbands at the controls, Essence Hit Man, a four-year-old son of Speightstown-El Prado Essence, fired from the gate, quickly opening a three-length lead on his four pursuers before reaching the opening quarter in :21.98.

Despite being 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, Essence Hit Man boldly drew off in mid-stretch, then had plenty left for favoured Signature Red’s late bid, winning by two lengths.

His time was 15/100ths of a second quicker than Legal Move’s former mark of 1:08.31, set on July 2, 2008.

It was more than just an impressive seasonal debut, since the winner also carried top weight of 124 pounds, giving up to nine pounds to his rivals.

The victory almost left his trainer and co-owner, Audre Cappuccitti, speechless.

“Never, honestly never (thought his performance would be this smashing).

 I went off all by myself in a corner and watched the whole race,” said Cappuccitti.  “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.  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 Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga. He finished 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 $108,000 for the victory, to push his career bankroll to $568,981 in only 13 starts.

As the 3-1 third 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 (5-1) exactor.

A 5-1-3 (Fatal Bullet, $2.10 to show) $2 triactor came back $46.90.