Fading hopes for great trio

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2006, 12:00am

The fragility of the thoroughbred racehorse has never been more graphically illustrated than by the events of recent weeks, with Hong Kong's three best horses going down like a line of skittles and each now poised precariously at the crossroads of their careers.

Vengeance Of Rain's 2006 campaign was halted before it had begun, with the 2005 world racing champion being flogged by 10 lengths in a gallop by a lesser-grade stablemate prior to being dispatched to New Zealand for some R&R.

Cape Of Good Hope, the inaugural Global Sprint Challenge hero and winner of Group Ones in Australia and England last year, came down with a knee injury that was significantly worse than trainer David Oughton first thought.

And the greatest of them all, Silent Witness, trained by Tony Cruz (pictured) is a shadow of his former self, as demonstrated with that below-par first-up seventh in the Centenary Sprint Cup on February 26.

The great one showed he is flesh and blood after all by succumbing to a virus on his return from that great Sprinters Stakes triumph in early October and hasn't been a shadow of his former self ever since.

Trainer Tony Cruz is now engaged in a race against the odds to get the Witness back into winning form, with his next appointment just 11 days away in the Chairman's Sprint Prize.

Oughton is still hopeful of a quick rehabilitation for Cape Of Good Hope and, possibly, a defence of his Golden Jubilee Stakes title at Royal Ascot. But the emphasis is clearly on hope rather than confidence and he is, after all, an eight-year-old.

It has to be said that connections are doing everything to get all three back to where they once were. But anyone who's been around racing more than five minutes knows that rarely happens.

Whether it's heart problems for Vengeance, knee issues for the Cape Crusader or a viral hangover for Silent Witness, the overwhelming probability is that racegoers have now seen the best of all of them, and - sadly - future competition from any of the three is long odds on to disappoint.