05/04/2012 12:05PM

Woodbine: Essence Hill tries to stretch speed in Vigil

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The brilliantly fast Essence Hit Man will try to carry his speed out to seven furlongs Sunday at Woodbine in the Grade 3, $150,000 Vigil Stakes.

Essence Hit Man captured the 2011 Sovereign Award for Canadian champion sprinter on the strength of his two six-furlong stakes scores, in the Jacques Cartier and Grade 3 Kennedy Road.

Essence Hit Man won the Jacques Cartier for the second year in a row after a winter break April 7. He set lively fractions before coasting home on top in 1:09.26, a time which earned him a career-high 104 Beyer Figure.

Jockey Jesse Campbell said the beginning of a race is vital for Essence Hit Man, who won the seven-furlong Queenston Stakes early in his career. He faded to second after setting a suicidal pace in the 2011 Vigil.

“It’s all about how I get away from the gate, and how I’m able to rate him,” Campbell explained. “The sooner that I can slow him down, the more I should have at the end. He came out of his race good, and he worked good the other day. He’s training as good as he can train. We’re fooling around with the idea of taking the blinkers off, but we can’t because he just won.”

Regarding equipment changes, Essence Hit Man has been easier to control since owner/trainer Audre Cappuccitti changed bits to a ring bit prior to his victory in the Nov. 19 Kennedy Road.

“Any minor change with a horse like him goes a long way, because he’s so talented,” said Campbell. “You’re working with a lot, so anything that you can improve can make him go farther.”

The Mark Casse-trained Paso Doble checked in third under Patrick Husbands in his season opener in the Jacques Cartier.

“I was quite pleased with the way he ran first time,” said Casse. “He got caught down inside. He’s kind of a peculiar horse to ride. Patrick said after the race that if he’d had an outside post, it would have possibly been a different story. He didn’t say that he could have beaten [Essence Hit Man], but he could have given him a run for his money.”

Signature Red finished third after a wide journey in each of the last two editions of the Vigil. He won the Grade 2 Highlander Stakes on the grass for the second year in a row last June, and has been idle since finishing four lengths behind Essence Hit Man in third in the Kennedy Road.

Bear Tough Tiger might be an up-and-comer in the local sprinter ranks. He has only lost once in five starts, and has earned a Beyer in the 90s on two occasions.