06/30/2010 11:00PM

Essence Hit Man better fit in sprint


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Audre Cappuccitti had a tough choice to make this week regarding Essence Hit Man, Woodbine's leading 3-year-old sprinter. She had to choose between Saturday's $150,000 Achievement Stakes, and the $1 million Queen's Plate on Sunday, and ultimately went with the six-furlong Achievement over the 1 1/4-mile Plate.

Cappuccitti, who owns Essence Hit Man in partnership with husband Gord Cappuccitti, said she was more comfortable with running the horse in the shorter race, which is for Ontario-bred 3-year-olds.

"It was a very hard decision," said Cappuccitti. "My husband really wanted to go in the Plate. I would gladly run him, because he's feeling great, but I'm just scared of hurting the horse. That was my only concern."

Essence Hit Man led throughout the six-furlong Woodstock Stakes when he came off the sidelines April 25, earning a 93 Beyer Figure. He was even sharper May 15 in the seven-furlong Queenston Stakes, which he won by six lengths after setting a moderate early pace. The 99 he was awarded for his Queenston win is the highest Beyer earned by a 3-year-old at Woodbine this year.

Most recently, in the 1 1/16-mile Marine Stakes on May 29, Essence Hit Man set slow fractions on an uncontested lead before giving way to favored Exhi, who was coming off a victory in the Grade 2 Lexington at Keeneland. A closing Hotep, the probable favorite for the Plate, nailed him on the wire for second.

Cappuccitti was tickled with Essence Hit Man's performance in the Marine, which was the gelding's first try around two turns.

"I thought he ran exceptionally well," said Cappuccitti. "He had three strong races in 34 days. He had a busy schedule, and I don't think [Hotep] would have caught him if that wasn't the case."

Chantal Sutherland, Woodbine's leading stakes rider this year, retains the mount on Essence Hit Man.

Race for Gold seems capable of mowing down all the fading speed in the race.

Race for Gold won both of his 2-year-old outings in November, and was second and third in two allowance races this spring. He got away slowly before rallying for second June 6 in the Bold Ruckus Stakes on turf.