11/23/2012 12:24PM

Woodbine: Essence Hit Man back to defend in Kennedy Road

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Michael Burns
Essence Hit Man has won 3 stakes in 5 starts this year.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Essence Hit Man returns from a layoff at Woodbine on Sunday, when he will defend his title in the Grade 3, $150,000 Kennedy Road Stakes. Sadly, his trainer and co-owner, Audre Cappuccitti, died Monday, and the rapid gelding is now trained by Dave Cotey.

Essence Hit Man captured last year’s six-furlong Kennedy Road convincingly, capping a season that saw him garner the Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion sprinter.

Essence Hit Man has been better than ever this year. He has won 3 stakes in 5 starts, all under Jesse Campbell, who said the 5-year-old was sidelined with a foot problem after his last outing in early August.

“I don’t think it was anything real serious,” Campbell recalled. “It was just one of those little things. At the time, there weren’t really any races for him. They obviously did the right thing by him.”

Campbell was impressed with Essence Hit Man’s Nov. 16 five-furlong breeze in 1:01.20 on the Polytrack.

“He worked unbelievable,” Campbell said. “It was one of those perfect works. He was very relaxed to start and kicked home when I asked him. He’s in good spirits. He’s hitting on all fours.”

Trainer Reade Baker entered three Bear Stable-owned geldings: Bear Tough Tiger, Bear No Joke, and Fatal Bullet.

Bear Tough Tiger has reached full bloom this year as a 4-year-old. He won an open allowance convincingly over the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle Downs on Sept. 29.

Bear Tough Tiger was beaten just a length after helping to set a moderate pace when he ran third in his first turf try in the Grade 1 Nearctic on Oct. 14.

“The race on the grass was super,” Baker said. “I think he would have been closer to winning had he drawn an outside post. Having drawn the inside, we had to go. I think going too fast, too early, compromised him. We didn’t get beat that far. I can’t wait to run him on the turf next year.”

Bear No Joke rebounded from a flat runner-up placing in the Sept. 3 Kenora Stakes to win an Oct. 7 optional claimer on the grass. Baker said an appropriate allowance for Bear No Joke failed to fill, which is why he has opted to run him in the Kennedy Road.

Fatal Bullet, the 2008 Canadian Horse of the Year and champion sprinter, was second in Bear No Joke’s recent triumph.

“He’s doing super,” Baker said. “He’s sounder than at any time in his career.”

Don’t be surprised if one of the Bear Stable runners tries to give Essence Hit Man a tussle on the front end.

Something Extra figures to flash speed. He led throughout the seven-furlong Mt Sassafras Stakes when he came off the sidelines Oct. 27.

Havelock is a longshot possibility in his second start off the bench. He won the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes on the turf here in 2011, and his record on synthetics is good.