Da Silva eyes Japan defence for Witness

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 August, 2006, 12:00am

Owner Archie da Silva yesterday made the commitment the Japan Racing Association had been waiting for - that champion Silent Witness will defend his Sprinters Stakes crown at Nakayama racecourse on October 1.

The Group One race is the next leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.

Silent Witness ran third in a barrier trial over 1,200 metres on the dirt track at Sha Tin yesterday, beaten a head and a neck by Class One stablemates Regency Horse and Fokine, and more than satisfied jockey Felix Coetzee.

'I thought he went very well,' Coetzee said last night. 'He began very fast, a lot better than he had last preparation, which was encouraging, but he got a bit tired in the final 200 metres as his fitness gave out. He just needed that, especially as the trial was 1,200 metres. Overall, I was very happy with him.'

Trainer Tony Cruz seconded Coetzee's assessment, much to Da Silva's delight.

'He'll have another trial on the turf track in September but at this stage, he looks like he'll go back to Japan for the Sprinters Stakes,' Da Silva said.

Silent Witness won last year's Sprinters Stakes from a wide barrier, but contracted a mystery infection on the way home and was forced to miss his tilt at a history-making third Hong Kong Sprint in December.

He was then winless in the spring, with his best effort being a half-length second to Joyful Winner in the Queen's Silver Jubilee Trophy (Gr 1, 1,400m). Silent Witness, who was Horse of the Year in 2004 and 2005, has won 18 of his 24 starts and his bankroll of HK$58,761,896 is a Hong Kong record.