Witness gets another chance to prove himself

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2006, 12:00am

Trainer Tony Cruz has persuaded owner Archie da Silva to keep struggling champion Silent Witness in training.

Da Silva has, however, placed an overrider on the agreement with the reigning champion trainer - that should the owner not see obvious improvement in Silent Witness between now and the week leading up to the $4.5 million Chairman's Sprint Prize at Sha Tin on March 26, the great gelding will not run.

'Tony remains convinced the problem with Silent Witness is a fitness issue, and that he just needs racing,' Da Silva said. 'He also believes that Silent Witness's stride has changed, that he no longer has the same, fast sprinter's action. He feels we won't be seeing the best of Silent Witness now until he gets to 1,400, 1,600 and possibly even 1,800 metres.'

After Silent Witness laboured home to finish seventh, beaten by 51/2 lengths, in Sunday's Centenary Sprint Cup - his first defeat in 19 starts at sprinting distances - Da Silva expressed the desire to send his champion to Australia for a proper spell.

Cruz, however, was equally adamant Silent Witness was just 'rusty' and in need of some hard racing to help him regain his competitive edge.

'Tony wants to press on and is very determined to prove he can get the horse back to form,' Da Silva said. 'So I've agreed to let him try. I imagine the horse will have some more gallops and possibly a barrier trial as well. But if I see the horse has not improved, that he just can't do it any more, I won't run him.

'It's not just about me and [wife] Betty, or about Tony. If Silent Witness is not right, I don't want him running and have the public, who have come to love this horse, losing their money on him,' Da Silva added.

Silent Witness won the Chairman's Sprint Prize in 2004 and 2005. It is decided at the same distance as the Group One Sprinters Stakes - 1,200 metres - which he won so brilliantly at Nakayama, Japan, on October 2.