Witness shows he is back on road to brilliant best

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 February, 2006, 12:00am

Just when it looked as though the glory days were gone, champion sprinter Silent Witness shook off his cold-weather lethargy and in one grizzly swipe showed he still has what it takes.

At Sha Tin yesterday morning, jockey Felix Coetzee bounced Silent Witness out of the barrier stalls and was merciless to stablemate Highlilli. The further they went, the greater became the margin, with the world's number one sprinter stopping the clock at 21.6 seconds for 400 metres, the final half in 10.6.

The vaguely similar fat gelding who struggled home five lengths astern of Natural Blitz in a barrier trial 16 days earlier may as well have been some other horse, because yesterday's version of Silent Witness bore no resemblance.

Trainer Tony Cruz is on the verge of his finest training performance, having turned Silent Witness around in such a short space of time.

'I was very happy with him this morning and Felix was very happy, too,' Cruz said. 'He worked just exactly how I wanted.'

However, Cruz has been in the game too long to be calling victory too early or, as they say in the racing game, going the early crow.

'Everything's gone well over the past two weeks, and everything he's done has been a bit better than the previous piece of work,' Cruz continued.

'I'm very happy but now it's entirely up to him. He will race on Sunday and then we'll know for sure.'

Silent Witness will return to racing in the $4.5 million Group One Centenary Sprint Cup, a race he has won in each of the past two seasons.

This term, it's the first leg of the sprinters' triple crown - a three timer he also garnered in 2004 and 2005.

Silent Witness, the highest-rated sprinter in the world for the past two seasons with an international rating of 123, has been under a cloud since he returned from Japan in October, where he won the Group One Sprinters Stakes (1,200m) at Nakayama.

He was being prepared for a third Hong Kong Sprint crown in December but was withdrawn from the race, suffering the effects of a mystery infection - probably a virus.

Cruz has faced one of the greatest challenges of his distinguished career to get Silent Witness back and appears to have done so against all the odds.