05/06/2011 10:47AM

Woodbine: Hollywood Hit vs. Essence Hit Man in Vigil


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Reigning Canadian champion sprinter Hollywood Hit and upstart Essence Hit Man, who set a track record in his last outing, will clash Sunday at Woodbine in the Grade 3, $150,000 Vigil Stakes.

Hollywood Hit drew post 1 in the seven-furlong Vigil, which he won last year in one of the more impressive performances of the meet. He wired a stellar field that day, set the track record for 6 1/2 furlongs of 1:20.07, and earned a whopping 114 Beyer Speed Figure.

Hollywood Hit subsequently wound up second after getting softened up in a speed duel in the Bold Venture Stakes. He outran an over-the-top Essence Hit Man to take the King Corrie Stakes in September, and capped his campaign by finishing second to Wise Dan in the Grade 3 Phoenix at Keeneland in October.

Trainer Terry Jordan said he was unhappy with the rail draw in the 6 1/2-furlong race, mainly because Essence Hit Man will begin directly to his outside. He said Hollywood Hit has trained solidly for his first start since the Phoenix, but the long layoff is a concern.

“He had a little problem last fall, which is why he got a late start this year,” Jordan said. “I’d like to have had a little more time with him, but if I miss this, then there’s nothing for a long time, and I’d have to ship him. I’d like to see where we’re at with him. He had a very fast work two works ago, and then he went quickly the other day – three-quarters in 1:12.”

Essence Hit Man was the leading 3-year-old sprinter in the country last year, when he won three local stakes and ran second in the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga.

Essence Hit Man ran lights-out following a seven-month layoff in the six-furlong Jacques Cartier Stakes, leading all the way to prevail in a track-record clocking of 1:08.16 for six furlongs. He got an 88 Beyer as the 124-pound highweight.

Trainer Audre Cappuccitti said she was surprised by the strong showing that Essence Hit Man put forth in the April 17 Jacques Cartier.

“He hadn’t breezed as much as the other horses in the race,” said Cappuccitti. “I thought it was awful giving nine pounds to those other horses. He seems to run well fresh. He ran really good first-time out last year, too.”

Rounding out the field are three stakes-winning closers Stunning Stag, Signature Red and Southdale.