05/31/2013 12:04PM

Woodbine: Essence Hit Man seeks repeat in Vigil


ETOBICOKE, Ontario − Essence Hit Man will face only three rivals Sunday, when he attempts to win the Grade 3, $150,000 Vigil Stakes at Woodbine for the second consecutive year.

Winner of the Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion sprinter each of the last two years, Essence Hit Man won the six-furlong Jacques Cartier Stakes for the second year in a row in his season opener April 27. He earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure after scoring by four lengths in 1:08.83, not far off his track record of 1:08.16.

Jockey Jesse Campbell said he was somewhat surprised with Essence Hit Man’s impressive comeback.

“I didn’t know if he was fit enough to run like that,” Campbell said. “He looked good, and it was just a matter of how fit he was. I’m glad he proved me wrong. One thing about him, he gives you what he’s got. He’s just a good horse.”

Essence Hit Man has limited experience at the seven-furlong distance of the Vigil, but Campbell said it is well within his range if things go his way.

“He can get the seven-eighths,” Campbell said. “It just depends on how it unfolds − how crazy somebody wants to get with him. You can try to hook him, but you’re going to ruin your own race. All you’d be doing is setting it up for somebody else.”

Campbell was aboard when Essence Hit Man worked a half-mile in 48 last Sunday, one week after he went five-eighths in a bullet 59.20.

“He worked real good,” Campbell said. “He was just cruising. We set him down a little [May 19], and every work was just how we wanted. He’s been hitting on all fours.”

Burnum was scratched from an optional claimer Saturday to help expand the Vigil field. He stalked a slow pace en route to a hard-fought win in his season debut in a first-level allowance May 4.

City Wolf hasn’t started since Nov. 10, when he checked in sixth in the Grade 2 Autumn Stakes. He was second to Delegation in the Grade 3 Durham Cup in October and he capped a four-race winning streak in the 2011 Durham Cup.

City Wolf, who graduated over seven furlongs on the Polytrack in the spring of 2011, is making his first start for trainer Sean Smullen on Sunday.

Laugh Track won his season opener in an optional-claiming sprint at Keeneland. He was promoted from fifth to fourth by disqualification most recently in the Grade 2 Alysheba on the dirt at Churchill.